( A twelve-minute read.)
What is the problem with capitalism?
A question that has preoccupied its existence.
The answer is that there is nothing in its internal logic to interrupt its momentum – to stop it eating its way through our planet, and ultimately collapsing our global ecosystems.
We all know that capitalism has brought with it historically unprecedented material advances. But today it is more obvious than ever that the imperatives of the market will not allow capital to prosper without depressing the conditions of great multitudes of people and degrading the environment throughout the world.
After years of ill-health, capitalism is now in a critical condition.
Growth has given way to stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the money economy has all but evaporated.
We have now reached the point where the destructive effects of capitalism are outstripping its material gains.
No ‘developing’ economy setting out on the capitalist road today, for example, is likely to achieve even the contradictory development that England underwent and is now dismantling.
There is a growing disparity between the material capacities created by capitalism and the quality of life it can deliver.
This is visible not only in the growing gap between rich and poor but also, for instance, in the deterioration of public services in the very countries – such as the US and UK – where the principles of the capitalist market are most uninhibited.
Capitalism was born at the very core of human life, in the interaction with
nature on which life itself depends, and the transformation of that interaction by agrarian capitalism revealed the inherently destructive
impulses of a system in which the very fundamentals of existence are subjected to the requirements of profit.
In other words, the origin of capitalism revealed the essential secret of capitalism.
To day Capitalism is incapable of promoting sustainable development,
not because it encourages technological advances that are capable of straining the earth’s resources but because the purpose of capitalist production is exchange value not use value, profit not people.
Whatever capitalism may do to enable the efficient use of resources, its own imperatives will always drive it further. Without constantly breaching the limits of conservation, without constantly moving forward the boundaries of waste and destruction, there can be no capital accumulation.
There is, in general, a great disparity between the productive capacities of capitalism and the quality of life it delivers.
Because the ethic of ‘improvement’ in its original sense, in which production is inseparable from profit, is also the ethic of exploitation, poverty, and homelessness.
The world is changing and the only profits matter approach to business is becoming harder to justify and get away with. The old style of the end justifies the means and the purpose of business is profit is dying.
The transparency of social media and the advent of the global economy, driven by Artificial Intelligence is demanding a change to how Capitalism works.
We are on call 24/7 through email and smart phones which is causing the line between money as the great motivator or happiness to blur.
The attempt to achieve material prosperity according to capitalist principles is increasingly likely to bring with it the negative side of the capitalist contradiction, its dispossession and destruction, more than its material
benefits – certainly for the vast majority.
The system’s contradictions have always gone far beyond the vagaries of economic cycles.
The use of wealth to create more wealth is coming to an end and will be hopefully replaced with intrinsic rewards than by pure financial ones. If values are not lived and only decorate the walls they can become a demotivating factor.
Life would indeed be nasty, brutish, and short if it were solitary, fortunately for all of us, in capitalist society it isn’t.
The beautiful thing about capitalism is that it’s ultimately based on
voluntary exchange for mutual benefit.
So why does it not get sufficient credit for the amazing value it has created.
Because the destructive effects of capitalism have constantly reproduced themselves, its positive effects have not been nearly as consistent since the system’s moment of origin.
So where does this leave us?
Unfortunately there will be no escape from exploitation. Increasingly significant numbers are not so much oppressed by capitalism as they are excluded by it.
The market can no longer act as a regulator of the economy as it becomes digitized. To guarantee some rationality, some correspondence between what people want and what is produced we all Technology to be verified in order to ensure it is complying with core human values. (See previous Posts)
While capitalist discipline celebrates consumption, not all of its subjects are rightly called consumers. To the contrary, many who are subject to its discipline do not so much struggle to consume and accumulate as merely survive, which suggests that capitalism works to deform humanity.
Capitalism has so construed the market that humans interact agonistically, competitively.
All of us, winners and losers, consumers and excluded, compete for resources, for market share, for a living wage, for a job, for the time for friendship and family, for inclusion in the market, and so forth.
Capitalism is now in the process of becoming invisible on the surface.
First, it is computerized and robotized, not to lessen everyone’s work time, but instead to raise profits by reducing payrolls.
Second, it exploited low-wage immigrant labor to offset wage increases won by years of labor struggles.
Third, it moved production to lower-wage countries such as China, India, Brazil and others.
Fourth, it divided and weakened the labor unions, political party groups and other organizations that pursued labor’s interests.
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer capitalist cell.
As a result, inside nearly every country of the global capitalist system, the rich-poor divide deepened.
Can anything be done?
Capitalism makes a virtue of what an earlier era denounced as a vice, pleonexia or greed – a restless, possessive, acquisitive drive, but which today is celebrated as the aggressive, creative, entrepreneurial energy that distinguishes homo economicus.
Capitalism is bad for those who succeed by its standards as well as for those who fail by them.
In fact, in many countries today, and for much of human history, it has been widely understood that those who are rich are rich because they took from others, and especially because they have access to organized force—in today’s terms, the state.
Such predatory elites use this force to gain monopolies and to confiscate the produce of others through taxes. They feed at the state treasury and they benefit t from state-imposed monopolies and restrictions on competition. It’s only under conditions of capitalism that people commonly become wealthy without being criminals.
It fails not simply on the grounds of what it fails to do but because of what it succeeds in doing: distorting human desire and relations.
It is often unclear what exactly is being condemned when it comes to Capitalism.
The term “capitalism” refers not just to markets for the exchange of goods and services, which have existed since time immemorial, but to the system of innovation, wealth creation, and social change that has brought to billions of people prosperity that was unimaginable to earlier generations of human beings.
The above may be true but it is now being exploited by what I call the fearsome five empty calorie connections” Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.
Even if they remain in possession, or indeed outright ownership, of the means of production – they are subject to the demands of competition, increasing productivity, capital accumulation, and the intense exploitation of
In this barren space, they and us are now locked in competition and struggle for scarce resources.
If you have got this far I can hear you saying come to the point.
What might be the alternatives to capitalism look like?
Capitalism is a cultural system and not simply an economic one, it cannot be explained by material factors alone.
It is now obvious, that the value Capitalism created is at a cost, which we are now reaping: Our environment, (Climate change) our core values, (We all have a core value in the unknown.) our Humanity all of which have been and are being hijacked by Greed/Profit and now technological progress.
Even if capitalism succeeds in reducing poverty, it is still wrong on account of its distortion of human desiring and human relations, rendering them antagonistic, competitive.
Over the last century, capitalism has repeatedly revealed its worst tendencies: instability and inequality. Inequality has proved to be an inherent trend of capitalism. Resting everything on self-interest is relying on a very incomplete theory of human nature.
Now that the capital markets are run by Algorithms and the world has an apparent love-hate relationship with the economic social system, capitalism, is it not time to create a new model of Capitalism.
“Conscious Capitalism.” or Social-Capitalism the seeds of which can be seen in countries like Sweden, Norwegian.
The first principle is that business has the potential to have a higher purpose that may include making money, but is not restricted to it.
Truly moving beyond capitalism means breaking from the employer-employee core relationship.
It means no longer assigning a relatively tiny number of people inside each enterprise to the employer position of exclusively making the sorts of decisions.
(In private corporations the employers are the boards of directors selected by the major shareholders. In state or public enterprises of the traditional socialist economies, the employers are state officials.)
Instead of either kind of employer-employee relationship, system change installs a different core relationship inside enterprises. A different group of people — all workers in the factory, office or store — democratically makes those same decisions. The rule is “one worker, one vote,” and in general, the majority decides. The difference between employer and employee dissolves.
Every business has the potential for a higher purpose. And if you think about it, all the other professions in our society are motivated by purpose, beyond a narrow interpretation of purpose as restricted to maximizing profits.
I think that capitalism and business should fully reflect the complexity of
Capitalist interaction is highly structured by ethical norms and rules. Indeed, capitalism rests on a rejection of the ethics of loot and grab, the means by which most wealth enjoyed by the wealthy has been acquired in other economic and political systems.
Capitalist contradictions are increasingly escaping all our efforts to control
them. The hope of achieving a humane, truly democratic, and ecologically sustainable capitalism is becoming transparently unrealistic.
In the midst of the descending darkness of capital, the difference this time is that we know what happened last time.
Postmodern society thwarts our innate desire to participate politically. Just voting in an election every few years, marching once in a while, or signing petitions on Avaaz or MoveOn doesn’t count for much.
We need new avenues for passionate participation – not just in elections every few years, but continuously.
A more generous, egalitarian, patient, deliberate, and accountable form of capitalism must begin with incisive and interdisciplinary social inquiry, without which policy change cannot be successful.
All suggestions all comments appreciated, all like clicks chucked in the bin.