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+1 vote
This is a broad question, but I personally get annoyed when I hear people gratifying small business for being small business and when people think the solution to their lack of meaning is to start one. Given my experiences with business owners, the only thing it ultimately does is generate stress.

However, I don't always dislike small businesses or the people who own them, they can be fun and interesting places for people in the town.

What do you think?

4 Answers

+2 votes
Small businesses are businesses. Just the fact that they aren't capitalists operating on the scale of the Walton family doesn't mean they aren't capitalists. There are a lot of times I choose to go to small businesses instead of larger ones based on a variety of factors (quality of what it is I am trying to acquire, friends work there - which sometimes means a "special discount", and a general dislike for the cookie cutter feel of many chains, among others), but not among those reasons will you find me thinking that small business is somehow better. I am a lot more likely to buy my socks at a chain store since they'll be cheaper than if I go to the small hipster boutique sock store (yes, there is one of those in my town), and frankly, the socks made in china (not that I know that the boutique ones aren't...) are warmer and thicker, which is an advantage where I live most of the time.

In regards to the owners of small businesses, I think it can really depend. I mean, if you are owning a business and have employees, you are a boss, so there is that. There are friendlier and less friendly ways to go about being a boss, but in the long run, to be a business owner and boss is a choice (like choosing to be a landlord). Not all people who do so are terrible monsters, but it is engaging with capitalism in a way that gives me pause (I am being nice right now). Where I live, small business owners have recently been some of the most vocal opponents of local legislation intended raise minimum wages and giving workers more rights. A lot of the most vocal among these have spent years cultivating credibility as being progressive or champions of the little guy against big business, but when the chips are down, they are champions of protecting their profits, not actually caring about the wage slaves they employ.

As an aside, one place that I almost always privilege local or small businesses is in book shopping. In part that is because I have some special discount friendships at various book stores, in part that is because there is an anarchist book store in my town (THAT is another can of worms which has been touched on elsewhere on this site), and in part, the small used book store I most often go to tends to just have a better selection than even the larger local book stores, at least as far as what I tend to read. They're still fucking capitalists though.
by (22.1k points)
Your descriptions of small business owners seems spot-on in my experience - Reactionaries.
Still i wonder how much of that is inbred nastiness, and how much is an individual desperate to conform pouring themselves into the mold presented by the state/crapitalism - the deification of the "entrepeneur" by contemporary mass media and a whole cottage industry of self-assured business advisors and pundits.  Given the fevered rhetoric around the 'self-made entrepeneur'  only the most socially deviant wouldn't want to be among god's chosen few.

That doesn't really matter, today or tomorrow - if your boss is a prick then she's a prick and you suffer the same regardless of motive.
Where it might matter is in times of crisis, and social rupture - are these people redeemable, can they embrace new ways of seeing their world and ours?; or are they truly become the petit-bourgeois, turned to stone by years of studied indifference, the same people who called out the militia to murder the poor beggars on the barricades of Paris?
also, people who own businesses typically want to manage themselves and be independent rather than be managed by someone else. I think James Scott makes a good point in "two cheers for anarchy", while he does present a somewhat positive image of the petit bourguosie which I don't agree with he does offer some good reasons why people find starting their own businesses appealing, for example when your working for someone else your typically under heavy surveillance.
+1 vote
The main difference is that you don't feel any guilt when proletarian shopping at a big business, and you might feel a little when doing it at a small business.

There's a reason that Marxists use the term "petit bourgeois" (usually mistranslated/misconstrued as "petty") as their most powerful insult; the small proprietor hides her/his pro-capitalist class interests behind a progressive/radical veneer. As ingrate points out, that veneer is wafer-thin, and slides off at the first sign of a serious challenge to their profits.
by (570 points)
The related question and answer:
what exactly do you mean by this lawrence,  " don't feel any guilt when proletarian shopping at a big business, and you might feel a little when doing it at a small business." ?
proletarian shopping doesn't involve the exchange of money...
Upvoted for using the term 'proletarian shopping', got a good chuckle out of that.
–1 vote
Small businesses are typically better than big ones (the smaller the better, with non-existent being the best of all), the pay disparity between the lowest earning and the highest earning is usually much smaller, they usually lack the funds to significantly support pro-capital/anti-everything else policies, they usually have closer ties to the local community and do them less harm, and so on.  If you're going to use a business (and it is hard not to in a world that is "owned" and  controlled by business) then smaller is usually better.

Always remember that a small business that grows into a big one will quickly lose any positive aspects (whether actually positive or positive only in relation to other businesses).  Don't remain loyal to a particular "small" business, always be prepared to drop them the moment they start to behave to much like a typical business.  A lot of the most odious corporations in existence were once small businesses.
by (290 points)
0 votes
I feel a bit anticapitalist, with ideas of small will strikes, small action comittees, small affinity groups spreading and starting small fires in small hipsters gentrifying small businesses. ;-)

Seems like a joke even I'm quite serious but I think it depends what we are talking about.

I would say that unless you are rulling a cooperative association, your small business makes you a small boss. And even in a coop things would easely and quickly get shitty because of money or more precisely little capitalist relationships. Which is to say hierarchical ones, or self-exploitative ones at least.

Whatever you do : don't fool yourself about it. I think it's the most important thing.

You can read anything about this by , especially "abolish restaurants"
by (2.2k points)
haha thanks for that, because the whole reason I posted it is because a very good friend of mine owns a restaurant and all it seems to do is suck the life energy out of her, even though she is really good to her employees (they make more money than she does!). However, even though I've said things about it before, practically everyone in town congratulates her for her masochism, which is really fucked up