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This is the ninth diary of a series on excuses for "why we can't have socialism."  The argument that goes that socialism is impossible because capitalism will last indefinitely, and prevent any and all alternative societies from arising.  Societies that have held on to the old socialism, well, mostly Cuba, are completely ineffective at socialism, and survive only by virtue of a black market capitalism.  See, e.g. Patrick Symmes' Thirty Days as a Cuban.

The idea with this excuse is that there is no real force in the world today opposing the capitalist system -- maybe there are a few protesters here or there but nothing is really going on to "take out" the capitalist system, and since it's defended by the US military, the global corporate elite's all-powerful proxy force (responsible for 46% of global military spending), we can expect capitalism to last indefinitely.

Within this ideological spell, "progressivism" appears as a taken-for-granted notion that things are, or can be, getting better, while at the same time the predatory economics of neoliberal capitalism (and the "inverted totalitarianism" described by Sheldon Wolin) is regarded as the ultimate goal-state of Western civilization.

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It seems like I've heard this excuse from the time I was first exposed to radical ideas in the 1980s.  Look at how strong the capitalists are!  Who is going to defeat them?  Usually this narrative is voiced by disillusioned radicals who see no option anymore beyond cowering in terror at the apparatus operated by the elites while "blending in with the crowd" and maintaining an image of outward conformity.  Protests will be ignored, votes can be "arranged," and politicians can be bought, so don't even bother to challenge the system from the outside.  If you voiced radical ideas in your twentysomething youth, as I did, you were told that it's best to "work within the system" if you wanted to promote social change.

The problem, of course, with such reasoning is that capitalism's ultimate defeat is not about what we do, though we can still have an effect upon the world.  The most effective critique of the capitalist system today voices the objection that it is headed, on its own momentum, toward some sort of terminal crisis.  This momentum used to be called "the contradiction of infinite growth on a finite planet" -- now, h/t to Jason W. Moore, it's called "peak appropriation":

Capital's problem today is not depletion in the abstract but the contracting opportunities to appropriate nature cheaply (i.e. with less and less labor). (p. 33)
Now, the capitalists (and their client governments) do indeed present a facade of invincibility.  Capitalist, corporate rule (rule by governments beholden to corporate capitalists) is advertised as the pleasurable alternative to being shot by the cops -- or at least this is what the protesters at the 1999 WTO conference saw.  And indeed the corporations may rule indefinitely, if they can get the mass public to believe in the corporate ideology of life into the indefinite future.  The problem, of course, is that capitalist business depends, for the indefinite sustainability which its propagandists loudly proclaim, upon "profit," which itself is "capital accumulation" -- corporations getting richer and richer.  This is not entirely a polite business, nor always a win-win situation for all involved, but is rather increasingly (in this era) a matter of their being able to manipulate the system so that they get a profit.  Corporate profit today often means leaning upon government for appropriation opportunities (what David Harvey called "accumulation through dispossession" and what Paul Krugman recently called "profits without production") and the exploitation of cheap labor, as Moore points out in the abovecited article:
In contrast to the golden ages of American and British world power in the mid-20th and mid-19th centuries, the era 1983-2008 was not built atop an industrial revolution in labor productivity.  Quite the opposite!  The robot factories of the future, widely anticipated in the 1970s, never materialized.  The future became a world of sweatshops, surplus humanity, and shock doctrines, not automated factories. (p. 35)
As the rediscovery of cheap labor in areas of the First World which in more prosperous times saw significant gains in worker rights requires a renewal of government repression of labor, we can expect austerity planning to be the trend in ideological justification of government policy today, even though (as one recent Alternet piece suggests) it hurts now and will hurt even worse later.  And this is in fact what is happening.

In fact, one can imagine that such planning has been achieving its intended goals.  The US suffering its biggest pay drop on record of recent is evidence of this.  As Joe Firestone pointed out in a recent piece in Naked Capitalism, practically all of the budgets coming out of Washington DC are austerity budgets, and this is likely so for an important reason:

One explanation is that everyone in the political mainstream is on board with the gradual destruction of the American middle class and the creation of a plutocracy where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few; and that everyone also knows very well that tight budgets lead to gradual private sector financial losses falling much more heavily on the middle class and the poor, and that these, in turn, will increase the wealth gap between the rich and everyone else. In this view, the effects of these budgets are not some overlooked side effects of implementing austerity; but are a great feature of medium and long-term austerity.

I don’t know how many people fit the bill provided by this explanation, but I think that far too many of our elected officials, and, many more than we like to think, embody this explanation. The truth is that the elites are after the American people, and that in the areas that really matter we’ve become a kleptocracy, a lawless oligarchy that continuously extracts more and more financial assets from most Americans by illegal means largely with impunity because authorities will not prosecute them.

This reasoning, unlike the others Firestone offers, cuts to the heart of elite motivation -- greater profit -- which (by the way) we also see in Volume 1 of Karl Marx's book Capital.  There, in Chapter 25, Marx argued that the persistence of a large "surplus labor army," a mass of desperately poor, unemployed people (as promoted by austerity planning), will decrease wages, thus making labor-power cheaper.  Cheaper labor-power means that businesses have to budget less for wages.  Profit!

This is, as the Marx examples shows, neither a new trend nor a new elite motivation.  The elite desire to force down wages may have been occluded, for a few years in the 20th century, by what in the academic business is called "Fordism" -- pay them more (as Henry Ford did) but control their behaviors through what Frederick Winslow Taylor called "scientific management" -- but this was later supplemented beginning with the neoliberal age (1973-present) with an emphasis on "flexible (i.e. disposable) labor."  What's new, then, is that the drive to force down wages occurs in an era of declining overall growth, with a capitalist world-system that will have maxed out its potential on Earth through resource depletion and environmental despoliation, and is soon to experience "peak appropriation."  And it is this combination of trends which has the potential to weaken capitalism to the point where it will either 1) morph into some other, oppressive system, or 2) be replaced by something else.

(Certainly we can say that the environmental catastrophe of global warming has reached the attention of our nation's "security" agencies, which are preparing now for the uprisings that such phenomena are expected to bring.  Of course, the silliness of all this is that the US government, as the guardian and protector of global capitalism, expects the main challenge to capitalism to be not global warming itself but rather the uprisings it will provoke.)

Now, admittedly this is a form of speculation.  I am merely saying here that "if this goes on" the ultimate end, the destruction of capitalism and its replacement by a regime of something more brutal (or possibly something better, if the resistance wins) is quite possible.  I could, then, be wrong.  I must point out in my defense, however, that the defenders of the capitalist system, the elites, are indefinitely committed to the continuation of most of the trends I cite.

During its golden age, corporate capitalist rule was justified to the masses upon the provision of goods to "the consumer" -- we can read in Ludwig von Mises' (1956) "The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality" (a propaganda piece of old) that capitalism exists for consumers.  And, of course, we are still told that everyone can be a consumer -- in the system's adolescence this message was the fundamental notion behind Horatio Alger novels.  But in this era the positive reinforcement of capitalism is taken for granted -- of course you want all of the good things money can buy, Sallie Mae no doubt assumes of its clients, because how else are you to enjoy life while paying off your student loan debts.  At some point in the development of the future dystopia I'm suggesting here, the system will be largely characterized by the brute force with which demonstrators are cleared from the streets in Istanbul or disciplined in Sao Paulo or with which "security" is provided for the upcoming G-8 conference.  What replaces the consumer utopia for us now is the simple slogan "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."  It's easy to imagine that at some late point the elites will create facades and name them "capitalism" without the actual conditions for what we call capitalism being there, the carrot and stick approach having been replaced by a series of ineffective appeals to debt servitude, electoral "democracy," and other ways in which the elites congratulate themselves.

Every once in awhile the system spits out some sort of propaganda around its ostensibly benevolent plans to "help the economy" -- microlending, for instance, or Japan's economic experiment known as Abenomics, here debunked by Mike Whitney.  My local college library now has more than half-a-dozen books praising the virtues of microlending for peasants in poor countries -- which eventually I won't be able to see at all when the college libraries digitize their holdings and make them exclusively available to "students, staff, and faculty."  When that happens, I suppose, we will be confronted with the reality of "peak propaganda" -- that point at which the propagandists are so desperate for money that they are no longer offering their services for free, and so one must pay if one wants to be propagandized.

But really what we are talking about is the early onset of what John McMurtry called the Cancer Stage of Capitalism.  It is, in short, a time in which we are seeing what McMurtry calls the "pathologization of the market model," the use of "economic principles" to destroy both economy and ecology in eventually vain hopes of propping up the profit rate against a shrinking actual growth rate.

I don't see this process, the endless tightening up of the economy for the sake of the attachment of profit guarantees to normal behavior, as sustainable, which brings up the question of ultimate ends.  What happens when an economy no longer has to have consumers (or for that matter, the whole productive apparatus that is supposed to be the basis for profit) for the continuation of corporate profit, and the corporations maintain their rule through theft aided by brute force while the vast majority of human beings become as useful as trash and the actual, living economy shrinks each year instead of growing?  Does that reality still count as capitalism?  As Wallerstein argued, we will eventually reach a point at which:

http://www.resilience.org/...

We can have a system better than capitalism or we can have a system that is worse than capitalism. The only thing we can’t have is a capitalist system.
As I've suggested above, what's new about today is not the repression of wage labor which was a mainstay of 19th-century life in the core nations and their overseas possessions.  No.  What's new about today are the economic and ecological conditions under which the current repression of wage labor is occurring: the capitalist system has suffered from a declining rate of growth (from decade to decade) since 1973 -- this was spelled out in a piece by William K. Tabb some time ago in the Journal of World-Systems Research -- as a world of resources becomes a world of environmental concerns.  So the overall trend is headed in the direction of zero growth, and perhaps toward economic shrinkage, as the era of intensive global warming dawns upon us.

One of the ways in which we can say that the real-life trend shines through the propaganda of profit and growth is by taking a look at the "cheapness" of resources according to what Jason W. Moore (in another piece) calls the "Four Cheaps."   The four cheaps are food, labor-power, energy, and natural resources -- they're what businesses need to keep growing.  The economy of food, which maintains labor-power as a good resource for businesses, is an especially succinct example of what is going on economically today.  We can say with certainty that the promoters of the status quo in India are interested in showing how life is better for all under their regime of capitalist progress, yet the cost of food has increased (leading at some points to food riots throughout the world) and Indians are living on less food than they had forty years ago.  The sales pitches intensify as the products increase in price and the money we have to buy them decreases.

Today's economic austerity, which is what the technocrats call "fiscal prudence" or a "balanced budget," appears under these conditions as a sort of reversion to the Victorian model of capitalism, conditions of long hours, low wages, and misery, the model which received Charles Dickens' loudest complaints in novels such as Oliver Twist, which complained of a form of child labor which has yet to make its reappearance in the First World.  (Of course, when Poland decides to scrap the eight-hour day to attract foreign capital investment, maybe it's just a matter of time before we see life as depicted in "Oliver Twist" again.)  The primary cultural difference between the era of Dickens and now, though, is that the zeitgeist of the era of Dickens, as miserable as it may have been, also experienced the full flowering of the "Whiggish view of history," in which life was expected to improve indefinitely with historical progress.  The spirit of this era, however, is one in which (to quote something the philosopher Jurgen Habermas said back in 1984) "the utopian horizon has contracted" and the zeitgeist is predicted in advance by Nouriel Roubini.

Add to the repression of wage labor the anticipation that we will not be able to "grow our way out" of the next economic crash, as it will be caused by the collapse of a market in which balance sheets are supposedly balanced by the claimed possession of $1.2 quadrillion in derivatives.  A mere Keynesian stimulus is not going to do anything about the tidal wave of debt that will be rolling through the economy when this ultra-vast "derivatives market" house of cards is finally unraveled.

The most immediate cause of possible collapse for the capitalist system of today was spelled out by Harry Shutt in a series of books: The Trouble With Capitalism (1998), The Decline Of Capitalism (2005), and Beyond The Profits System (2010) are the ones I've read.  The essence of Shutt's argument is this: capitalism today suffers from a surplus of capital that is getting ever worse.  As more and more capital accumulates, the capitalists continue to demand more and more profit from the system, with the end-result that they leech the life out of the system as a whole.  Eventually there should come some sort of great crash, similar to what happened in the Great Depression, which will purge the system of its excess capital.  Unfortunately, government in this era exists largely to prevent such a crash, to keep capital alive through subsidy and by allowing capital to "cook the books."  But the longer the eventual crash is forestalled, the more capital accumulates and the more precarious the real-life situation (unlike the one cooked on the books) becomes.  Eventually the crash takes out the system as a whole, or at least that's Shutt's hypothesis.

Government's commitment to the maintenance of corporate profits in the neoliberal era is not merely limited to subsidy, although there are plenty of subsidies -- most notably the fossil fuel subsidies the US provides to companies whose activities are self-destructively the most obvious cause of global warming.  Joe Shikspack's most recent diary contains a short discussion of a "divine right to profit" inscribed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Here's the fun part of the text Joe Shikspack quotes from the advocacy group Public Citizen's treatment of the TPP:

The U.S. has made one of the major planks of the TPP the expansion of the notorious “investor-state” enforcement system. It allows foreign corporations to challenge national laws and regulations outside of national courts. These pacts elevate individual corporations and investors to equal standing with agreements’ signatory governments, empowering corporations to directly enforce public treaties by suing governments in foreign tribunals for taxpayer compensation for domestic regulatory policies that investors believe diminish their “expected future profits.” These regulatory policies can be anything from environmental protection to financial regulation.  

From here we can predict that the existing order will become a sort of fantasyland in which the parties all mutually agree to pretend to the eternal life of the principles of  "profit," "solvency," and "economic growth," when the reality on the ground is one of the exhaustion of these same principles in ecosystems disasters.  One recalls an old Native American quote to the effect that "When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money."  The people at the top of the for-profit corporations really do believe that they can eat money -- so the prescription they make for themselves is to eat more money at a faster rate to make up for the nutrition they're not really getting.

 At some point the commonly-held faith in money will fall apart, not as a sort of economic inflation but as a common recognition that whatever money one holds will eventually be sucked up by corporations or by government and that real material wealth will be in the possession of power, the power to tell the vampires "no."

Now, I realize that none of this will establish the actual possibility of some future socialism.  After all, none of the protesting publics from Tunisia to Egypt to Greece and Spain to the US to Turkey to Brazil are ready to build socialism anew, and the experiment in "21st-century socialism" in Venezuela is at this early point the popular end of what used to be called Keynesianism.  Socialism is not going to be granted to the people on a silver platter -- it will have to be achieved as the outcome of a class struggle which has not shown up just yet.  But what I've tried to establish here is that the idea that capitalism will last indefinitely is more far-fetched than it sounds.

Originally posted to Postcapitalism on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by Money and Public Purpose, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Struggle By Definition Means the People Inflicting (14+ / 0-)

    denials of service. Strikes, boycotts, blockades. In addition to the financial losses at the top from the 29 crash and 3 years of Republican neglect, there was a lot of popular impoliteness going on that provided some of the incentive to craft the New Deal.

    We don't have a critical mass motivated to do that at this time. Part of the reason is the profound divide that has some 40% of the people defending the destroyers as saviors.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:31:24 PM PDT

    •  assuming we're not already disposable (6+ / 0-)

      Strikes, boycotts, and the like assume that the plutocrats still need us to work for them and buy from them.  What happens when people go on strike and the plutocrats go: "Great, there's a billion starving people in Asia who'd be happy to work for us in your place.  Now we have no choice but to hire them if we want to stay in business."  What happens when people boycott a product or a company and the response is to cultivate Third World markets?

      The plutocrats don't care where or from whom their money is made.  Besides, the thick juicy profit margins come from selling to the rich and the government, not to regular people.  Detroit is the object lesson here: the rich are happy to literally junk any amount of assets (not just buildings and machines, but people too ... and maybe even entire countries) in pursuit of lower operating costs.

      The labor movement assumes that workers have leverage.  What if that's not the case, and hasn't been for some time now?

      •  Perhaps with respect to basic production: (5+ / 0-)

        You are totally correct in that most mass manufacturing can be and has been outsourced to Asian countries. But, I don't think that that shuts the door on the power of resistance.

        First, there has to be a market for goods and services. If people in half the world are considered disposable, that creates a huge hole in the income stream to the elite.

        Second, the elite do not live so well b/c of their money, they live so well b/c of what their money can buy, if the products and services become far more difficult to acquire, whether by general strikes or shut downs of freeways, etc. it could well be a powerful tool.

        And, though the military/police state is building in anticipation of riots and civil disobedience, I have a hard time seeing americans extracting violence on Americans IF the movement gets broad support and momentum as what happened in Egypt. To be sure, OWS was brutally put down in some ways, but I don't think that means that a far broader (perhaps desperate?) movement that is primarily peaceful would be forced into compliance in the same way.

        Of course, I am not certain of any of this and perhaps you are dead right. It is so difficult to not be thoroughly depressed by all of this, especially with the TPP stuff seeming to be a direct means of implementing that exact end.

        Blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, the meek and the sick: The "party of Jesus" wouldn't invite him to their convention - fearing his "platform."

        by 4CasandChlo on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:03:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  professionals will shoot (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          corvo, 4CasandChlo, hubcap, cynndara, BusyinCA

          What people need to understand about Egypt is that the Egyptian Army is made up of conscripts.  The kids in the tanks being ordered to massacre the protestors were there because it's the law: you have to serve for a period of time no matter what your plans for yourself are.  They didn't shoot because their real loyalty was not to the Egyptian state or to the Army, but to the people in the streets.  That's the lesson - the only lesson - that the Pentagon learned from Vietnam: draftees are unreliable because they'd rather be somewhere else; they see themselves as having been taken away from their real lives.

          The American armed forces are professionals: trained to eat, sleep, and breathe military service.  For soldiers conditioned in a military culture that aspires to some kind of neo-Spartanism, "home" is the base, "family" is the unit, and "career" is making colonel, and to the extent that they think of themselves as Americans first, they think they're the only real Americans: the rest of us just live and work here.  I imagine officers in Iraq and Afghanistan riling up their troops against withdrawal with a false choice between going home to flipping burgers and a trailer trash wife or staying and being war gods alongside the only real friends you'll ever have.  They will not think twice about oppressing large-scale civil unrest.  They will take it personally: how dare those hippies hurt my America!!!  

          Cops are the same way.  They see actual criminals merely as prey: as targets to be destroyed.  The status of "enemy" they reserve for civilians, especially liberals: held to be a lower order of life that thinks criminals are victims and that is completely incapable of understanding cops' "warrior ethos" and is determined to emasculate it out of fear.  They'll do whatever they're ordered to do in the name of "keeping the peace", arrest whomever they have to arrest because we'll have crossed their line simply by challenging the system.

          •  Not only that, but many of the (8+ / 0-)

            "volunteer military" have self-selected because they enjoy or want to practice violence.

            If you take a cross-section of the entire society, you'll have a wild range of views on pain, harming others, violence in general, violence against civilians.

            But if you take those who volunteer for the military, then you get a large number who self-select because they are already of the persuasion that violence is a good thing.

            The all volunteer military is a harmful thing to society as a whole, and especially to democracy.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:52:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  just like with the police (4+ / 0-)

              I will never understand the argument that I'm supposed to associate violence with safety.

            •   Just couldn't let this go. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Noisy Democrat
              But if you take those who volunteer for the military, then you get a large number who self-select because they are already of the persuasion that violence is a good thing.
              To say that those who volunteer have a "persuasion that violence is a good thing" is so far from the truth that I have a hard time replying.

              No way, no how are volunteers in the service predisposed to violence.   That is exactly the same thing as racists who say that blacks, and hispanics have a lower IQ, or are predisposed to violence, or women are predisposed to emotional response, or lacking in mathematical talent compared to men.

              Disgusting.  That is all I have to say except, you better be damned glad that there are those who are willing to serve.  The time could come that your freedom depends on it.  

              In the time it took Adam Lanza to reload, eleven children escaped. What if...

              by Sixty Something on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:38:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think you need to read up on some of the (0+ / 0-)

                atrocities committed in Afghanistan and Iraq.  There were people who were clearly violent, pre-disposed to violence prior to service, who volunteered and who committed horrific violent acts. In many cases these were murderous horrific acts committed against children and defenseless civilians.

                And that's just the worst of them.

                What do you call the helicopter pilots and gunners whooping it up and laughing as they slaughter unarmed civilians?  Were those troops not enjoying their violence? It's all on video. Have you seen it?

                I clearly did not say everyone joins the military because they are violent.

                What I did say is that there is a pre-selecting group of predisposed-to-violence people who volunteer because it fits in with their own personalities.

                And since there is no draft, the proportion of those predisposed to violence is higher than if there were a cross-section of the nation serving in uniform.

                "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

                by YucatanMan on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 10:23:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Volunteer military does not have pacifists in it (0+ / 0-)

                That's the bottom line.

                Only those that can imagine killing others, or that can at least accept that as part of the deal, will join.

                Ergo, they are more likely to be people that are fine with violence.

                It's pretty logical.

                Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

                by splashy on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 10:29:12 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  You make some great points (0+ / 0-)

            And I certainly would never say that I know I am right - absolutely not. I hope I am right, but then again, I am sure you hope that I am too b/c the alternative is very depressing. But, I fully admit that you make some great points.

            My position was based upon a very wide spread state of social unrest, one that transcends the normal political norms - a true class warfare (without the violence) that encompasses very large percentages of the middle-lower classes.

            IF that were to be the case, and it is a big IF, then I find it hard to believe that soldiers would fire upon Americans that are just like their families and friends.

            Maybe I am wrong and certainly they could be well rewarded by pay and perks in order to feel more "special" than the rable rousers, just don't know. I would like to think that Conservatives would go nuts if the military was unconstitutionally called upon to break up civil unrest at home.

            Blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, the meek and the sick: The "party of Jesus" wouldn't invite him to their convention - fearing his "platform."

            by 4CasandChlo on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:38:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't think you're wrong (0+ / 0-)

              While the whole point of military training has always been to make compliant, reliable weapons out of ordinary human beings, that hasn't stopped revolutions from occurring in the past. Not even in the absence of a modern, conscript army.

              In point of fact, large scale defections from both the police and military are characteristic of popular, social revolutions, as opposed to political coups. Whether or not such defections occur depends to a large degree on whether the general political agitation has impacted the military and police to the same degree as it has the broader civil society. For that reason, successful revolutionaries of the past carried on agitation specifically targeted to these groups.

              The clerical fascist elements of the religious right have grasped this point better than some on the left. They've been carrying on agitation in the military for years.

               

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 03:43:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  In addition to third world possibilities (0+ / 0-)

        striking workers in the US can often be easily replaced with other domestic workers unless the skills required are very specialized. The large number of unemployed workers creates a lot of leverage for management/owners.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:33:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Superbly put together (11+ / 0-)

    The kind of Diary I expect to read on this site, but rarely do.

    Here is food for though for all those tempted to think that Capitalism is forever:

    Capitalism is the economic model that replaced the Feudalism of Europe as that place transformed from an agricultural society, to an industrial one.

    Its roots can be traced back no further than about 200 years or so. So already it is a relatively modern economic model.

    But the capitalism that began as people moved from the country to the cities has not remained the same. Those early producers manufactured the necessities of more modern living, and although it concentrated the wealth, NEED was driving production, and the needs of society driving production is actually quite a Socialist principle.

    It didn't stay that way, and Capitalism was supplanted by "Monopoly Capitalism" during the twentieth century. Under this model, finance drives production, rather than basic need, even for leisure products.

    In the US the model has shifted again. Not only does finance drive everything, it pays for power and the government has become beholden not to the people, but to the money. Hence we live in a system where the money does not just control the supply of commodities, but the political power and law-making ... We call it Oligarchy, and it is a far cry from the old Capitalism that was a major advance (for everyone) on Feudalism.

    What I am saying here is that nothing is forever, and the current economic model is a very recent one, maybe as recent as the last fifty years.

    So yes, it can change and it will change. Unfortunately, so much power is vested in so few people that I fear for what might need to happen for change to become reality.

    It might be that Oligarchy will simply collapse under the weight of the greed, but I fear that in America that would not end well. In other territories the rot has not spread quite so far, nor is it quite so extreme, and it may be that they can change in a more ordered and positive manner.

    Sorry to be so depressing.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:35:23 PM PDT

    •  Roots of capitalism (8+ / 0-)

      I've found that nothing focuses the mind upon the problem of how capitalism began like the writings of Ellen Meiksins Wood -- esp. her book "The Origin of Capitalism."

      I suppose capitalism has its origins in the merchant class which arose in the "12th-century Renaissance."  Jason W. Moore has a good set of essays about how the Black Death of 1348-1351 cleared the ground for the invention of capitalism, which Wood imagines to have developed in 16th and 17th century England.

      Kees van der Pijl places the first genuine capitalist state as the UK after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  I'm not really sure when Wallerstein imagines the beginnings of the capitalist world-system, though his main interest was its beginnings in the 16th century.  So clearly the idea of capitalism has been percolating for some time before it actually became "capitalism."

      I really can't say how useful this label "monopoly capitalism" is.  Yeah, I know, a lot of famous people use it.  I'm also skeptical of the wisdom of conflating capitalism before 1973 (what is called the golden age) and capitalism after 1973 (as called the neoliberal age).  Michael Hudson has an interesting passage in "Super Imperialism" about how in 1973 the US obliged the world to accept a system based on faith-based US dollars, what is now called "dollar hegemony."  It's also meaningful that in 1973 the regime of Salvador Allende was overthrown in Chile, and the junta headed by Augusto Pinochet was thenafter to become the incubator regime for neoliberal political economy, with the blessings of the Chicago School of Economics.  It seems important.

      "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

      by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:55:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't doubt that there was (4+ / 0-)

        a "merchant class" long before that which we consider "Capitalism".

        The difference was that the power of the land was vested in Lords, Barons and others of that ilk.

        That wasn't broken until much later, when parliaments began to assume sovereignty, and make it stick :)

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        Who is twigg?

        by twigg on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:06:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The lords of industry (or finance if you will, but (5+ / 0-)

          please indulge my imagery) have been reasserting their power over the land most recently.  They seem to own, or at the very least completely control, our government by virtue of the constant revolving door.  

          Congress may bicker over this and that, but if Lords of Industry want something, they get it. Over and over.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:56:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Clearly capitalism could not emerge ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves

          ... as the dominant system of the economy without first evolving as a system, so capitalism developed as a subordinate subsystem first, often focused on cities that won special privileges from Emperors or Feudal Monarchs  seeking a base of support independent of the Influential Houses or Great Lords.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:42:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  also called 'extreme capitalism' n/t (0+ / 0-)
        •  I suppose there's something to that name (0+ / 0-)

          though if you read any number of Dickens' or Zola's novels, or if you read George Orwell's "The Road to Wigan Pier" or Friedrich Engels' "The Conditions of the Working Class in England," there's some pretty extreme stuff there that can be attributed to capitalism, too.

          "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

          by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:09:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Most economies are a combo capitalist/socialist. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, lehman scott, Lawrence

    It's a matter of the % of which is each. I don't favor requiring this or that 'because we're Capitalist' or 'because we're Socialist'. I don't think it makes sense to be absolutist or rigid in the real world about anything economic.

    I was gonna listen to that, but then, um, I just carried on living my life. - Aldous Snow

    by GoGoGoEverton on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:37:56 PM PDT

  •  I believe that there are two kinds of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueDragon, shrike

    capitalism: tyranno-capitalism which works against the common good, and democrato-capitalism which works for it. Our society has been dominated by tyranno-capitalism for a long time because the Framers designed a republic instead of a democracy. But democrato-capitalism will become ascendant very soon.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:41:57 PM PDT

    •  Let me guess... (5+ / 0-)
      But democrato-capitalism will become ascendant very soon.
      So the next "lesser of two evils" Democratic Party Presidential candidate who runs oh-so-slightly to the left of the Republican frontrunner will give us "democrato-capitalism" out of the kindness of her or his heart?

      Meanwhile the European Union will authorize a crash development program for Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and Latvia, planet Earth will back down from its global warming threats (while offering us a few trillion barrels more oil), the elites will decide to share the wealth, and the forty-year trend of declining growth will abruptly reverse itself?

      What happens next may be "democrato-" -- but it won't be capitalism.

      "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

      by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:08:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Your diary, well-organized as well-written as (0+ / 0-)

        it is makes a common mistake: it blames the system rather than the practitioner.

        Most institutions and systems of government have two forms: tyranno and democrato. It all depends on who controls them. But slavery has only one form: tyranno. There is no such thing as democrato-slavery. Capitalism comes close to being such a system, but, thank goodness, it can have two forms. I have known a few capitalists, and a small number of them were very successful. They all practiced democrato-capitalism—their enterprises worked for the common good. They were good businessmen, aggressive, smart, and indefatigable, and they were also fair, they kept their word, and they not only tried to do the right thing, they almost always succeeded at it. It was a pleasure having a small part in their enterprises and watching them grow by leaps and bounds—it was a rocket ride. And I am sure that there are many, many democrato-capitalists hard at work right now. But, at this moment, in this world, tyranno-capitalism is ascendant. Our national and state governments are accomplices in forcing the People to serve tyranno-capitalism.

        This should not be surprising. The Framers, particularly James Madison, designed a system of government that was vulnerable to takeover by capitalists who did what capitalists do: find an opportunity and exploit it. Unfortunately, human nature plays a decisive part in such a situation, and tyranno-capitalists, because they are ultra-aggressive, because they are willing to do whatever it takes to win, became the dominant force in our national economic life. They are like the white supremacists who ruled the tyranno-South: they are too sure of themselves, they are above the law, extortion is their favorite tool, they will never give an inch, they will not listen to reason, they understand only force, they are often self-destructive, and they are wrong—thank goodness they do not have their own militias.

        But they do have their own government. Tyranno-capitalists and the tyranni who control our Madisonian republic fit together perfectly—they show the effectiveness of symbiosis in the accumulation of power and wealth. When they come together to form tyranno-capitalism they become a powerful economic engine which, unfortunately, does more harm than good. But, if tyranno-capitalism could become democrato-capitalism, there would be no better system for building the kind of economy that the People deserve, and that they have waited so long to see. And there is no better system than democracy for controlling tyranni. So, there is hope. We can restructure our government, and we can control capitalism so that it works for the common good.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:18:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's nice that you know a few capitalists (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lehman scott, jbsoul, atana

          whom you respect.  I don't, however, think much of this idea:

          Your diary, well-organized as well-written as (0+ / 0-)

          it is makes a common mistake: it blames the system rather than the practitioner.

          I don't buy into a moralism that separates out people into "good people" and "bad people" and then argues that if a system has "good people" running it, then all will be OK regardless of where the system is with respect to its natural limitations.

          Capitalism is in its "old" stage right now.  It's maxing out the planet and cheapening life for the working classes again.  "Good people" aren't going to make it young again.

          "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

          by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:52:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Resource depletion is due to population growth (0+ / 0-)

            and not capitalism per se.

            Only capitalism allocate resources based on merit.

            "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

            by shrike on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:58:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Um, no. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jbsoul

              Resource depletion is due to the capitalist's regard for the whole of nature and society as a "free gift."  

              "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

              by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:12:46 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It is true that capitalists pillage Nature. (0+ / 0-)

                But they do it to satisfy democratic demand which is fueled by population growth.

                Seven billion people moving into middle class stature will soon be 10 billion and "socializing" that many people will result in ecological disaster.

                I will go full socialist in exchange for worldwide veganism and a zero carbon footprint.

                Deal?

                "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

                by shrike on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:33:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Also, no. (0+ / 0-)

                  Capitalists do not take both "natural resources" and labor-power to satisfy "democratic demand."  Capitalists work to satisfy EFFECTIVE demand, calculated by multiplying the number of people willing to pay by the price of each item for sale.

                  Not everyone has the sort of money the capitalists are asking.

                  "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

                  by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 04:16:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Wow, you are amazing. I offered to go full (0+ / 0-)

                    socialist (against all my principles) in exchange for a solution to our very real pending climate disaster.

                    And you said no.......

                    I am astounded.  I can't imagine your real motive.

                    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

                    by shrike on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 04:28:33 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Yea (0+ / 0-)

                  That's how we ended up with a system where a huge chunk of the population does nothing but maintain the wasteful transportation system we use, because nobody wants more efficient cars or public transit.

                  /sarc

                  You're so full of shit.

                •  Capitalism (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Cassiodorus

                  creates an incentive to pillage nature. Conserving natural resources comes in second to satisfying the return on investment of shareholders.

                  This is why attempts to rein in environmental damage are met with accusations that such efforts will be bad for the economy.

                  People become greedy under capitalism not because greed is the prevailing innate motivation, but because that behavior is accentuated and rewarded. We all are forced to "sell, sell, sell" to survive in a capitalist environment. Few escape this. Even colleges and academia gets into the act, selling the institution, selling sports, selling reputations, selling education.

                  "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                  by ZhenRen on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 07:04:04 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  We've got two alternatives there ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WB Reeves

              ... we can define capitalism as a system which allocates resources based on merit, and then we do not at present have anything remotely resembling "capitalism" ...

              ... or we can define capitalism as identifying a type of system that we have actually observed in action, in which case it clearly does not allocate resources based on any objectively identifiable merit: rather it defines the rules of the game, and labels whatever the winners did as "merit".

              Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:35:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I know you don't think much of my idea. (0+ / 0-)

            But you offer no defense of your idea. My idea allows for a stock exchange that can provide a public service and do so fairly, but it would require "good" people to manage it. Those people exist thank goodness, but they do not control the exchange.

            My idea allows for the good practice of medicine by good doctors and for the bad practice of medicine by bad doctors. Your system requires the practice of medicine to be all good or all bad regardless of the nature of the practitioner. Obviously your idea makes no sense.

            You hate capitalism as you define it, but all you are doing is cataloging complaints. The best thing to do is to look at the system and devise safeguards to prevent "bad" people from doing harm to the "good" people.

            I know you will be surprised to hear this but there are "bad" and "good" people, and any systems or institutions that they control will always reflect their nature, thus we have "good" corporations and "bad" corporations.

            Again, you have turned the world upside down and you are blaming the system instead of the practitioner. Unless and until you give in and change your way of thinking you will get nowhere.

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 05:12:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry but this is an absurd argument (0+ / 0-)

              There are no such things as good and bad systems? Just good and bad people?

              Clearly then, WWII was a pointless exercise. As was the Civil War, the abolition of slavery, the overthrow of the Aristocracy, the end of serfdom, etc. Nothing wrong with these systems, just the people running them, right?

              I think not.

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 04:04:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, there are inherently bad systems. In my first (0+ / 0-)

                comment in this thread, I mentioned slavery. I said that it is a tyranno-system, it has no democrato-form.

                WWII, the Civil War, and the other struggles you mentioned  were necessary in order to deal with the bad people who controlled Germany, Japan, Italy, the tyranno-South, and others you mentioned. So what you are pointing out is exactly what I am preaching. Systems are not human beings, they are mindless, purposeless. They do no harm unless they are misused. It is really simple.

                For example, look at medicine. It is regarded by many Americans as a good system, yet we know that there are many bad practitioners of medicine. In the hands of a bad doctor, the practice of medicine can be a deadly system. So, tell me what is the difference between bad medicine and good medicine? Does the system have a mind that decides that it will harm this patient and cure the next? I think not. Medicine is full of bad doctors and if you don't already know this then you need to be beware.

                What about education? We know that some teachers do a good job of teaching and others don't. But is that due to the system or to the teachers? At first the difference was due to teachers, but then politicians, bad politicians, got control of the education system and made it unworkable in spite of the best efforts of the good teachers. So now education in many states is a bad system because it is controlled by bad people who want to teach bad things. Here in Texas there is a drive to replace evolution with creationism in our biology classes, for example.

                Of course, our government is a prime example of my theory. If the Republicans are in charge then bad things happen more often than if the Democrats are in charge. But the system remains the same. It is the people who control it who use it do bad things that make the difference.

                If your theory was correct then it would make absolutely no difference who we put in office. For example we could put Adolf Hitler in office and it would make no difference at all. Now that is truly absurd, but that is where your argument logically goes.

                Have a nice day.

                Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                by hestal on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 05:46:17 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Exactly how (0+ / 0-)

                  do you think Nazism or Slavery could have operated in a "good" way? Or is this where your Democrato/Tyranno construct rides to the rescue? It appears to be a "having your cake and eating too" conception. Systems are neither good or bad, except when they are.

                  All human created systems will be imperfect because human beings are imperfect. It doesn't follow that all systems are neutral. Different systems encourage and discourage different behaviors. That's their purpose. Unless you're going to claim that behaviors are neutral, you can't credibly argue that encouraging one kind of a behavior while discouraging another is a neutral action.

                  Your reference to Hitler is malapropos. Hitler's accession to the Chancellorship was the direct result of the peculiarities of a parliamentary system. Hitler never attracted a majority of the vote in any free election. Consequently, the same scenario couldn't occur under the present US system. That's not to say that someone equally bad couldn't become President but it couldn't happen in the fashion that it did in Germany. You underline, rather than negate, the differences between systems.

                  Hope you have a great day too.

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 06:42:08 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I have said from the outset that slavery (0+ / 0-)

                    was an inherently bad system. I said that it existed in only a tyranno-form, there is no democrato-form of slavery. And yet you keep raising the question about slavery. So, it is obvious that you have not given my comments a fair hearing and I have been wasting my time.

                    You concede that someone as bad as Hitler could become president. You conceded that point. So, it follows that he would produce worse policies than other presidents have done even though the system stays the same. You have endorsed my argument.

                    I think you have not given my comments a fair hearing and I have been wasting my time.

                    I know that people like you, unjustifiably sure of your own wisdom, like to have the last word. So, go ahead and take your best shot. I promise to read it and not comment.

                    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

                    by hestal on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 07:56:45 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Capitalism itself is in opposition to democracy. (6+ / 0-)

      Capitalism is the worship -- ok, ok, the relentless pursuit -- of money.

      Democracy is about the people coming together to decide how best to rule their living amongst one another from day to day.

      Relentless pursuit of money doesn't help us decide how to resolve governmental issues.

      Maximizing profits minimizes humans, which Democracy is seeking to Maximize, or at least Ease, the lives of humans.

      Capitalism can only operate for the good of many when it is strictly bound by rules and regulations subordinate to government existing as the will of the people.  

      When capitalism captures or owns government (revolving door at the White House today), then we've lost democracy.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:00:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  excellent diary! (8+ / 0-)

    thanks! that it is controversial anywhere that our current form of capitalism is unsustainable is pretty amazing given the evidence under our noses.

    i'm part of the 99% - america's largest minority

    by joe shikspack on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:42:31 PM PDT

  •  There is no reason to believe that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, BlueDragon, lehman scott

    capitalism will go on indefintely.  For a long time there have been theories that capitalism will collapse (going back to Marx).  The limits of the earth and resource depletion could cause something like this:

     

    What's new, then, is that the drive to force down wages occurs in an era of declining overall growth, with a capitalist world-system that will have maxed out its potential on Earth through resource depletion and environmental despoliation, and is soon to experience "peak appropriation."  And it is this combination of trends which has the potential to weaken capitalism to the point where it will either 1) morph into some other, oppressive system, or 2) be replaced by something else.
    I agree it has that potential.  On the other hand, there is no certainty.  People must make their own futures.

    It is possible capitalism will collapse, but I may not see it in my lifetime.  (I have maybe 30 years left).  

    The diea that capitalism is all there is shows a lack of imagination in my view.  On the other hand, certainty in its collapse turns class struggle into religion.  I was glad to see you did not make that mistake.

    Good post.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:43:33 PM PDT

    •  collapse into *what* though... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP, Dr Swig Mcjigger

      Because a return to good ol' fashioned Feudalism is the likely outcome of any "sudden cataclysmic collapse" scenario.

      This is my biggest "marco" long term fear. Talk all you want about Progressive this and Progressive that but if we're reduced back down to walled villages fighting off nomad warriors....

      What we WANT is a post-scarcity economy. The Star Trek future, basically. Supply & Demand becomes non-applicable. But in order to sniff that level of technology, we kinda need to hold off on destroying ourselves completely for another century or two.

      Yeah, we'll see.

      "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

      by TheHalfrican on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:11:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we have a post scarcity economy already (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomP

        it is just that the 1% have hoovered up all the stuff.

        see Sacred Economics on line for free.  Eisenstein makes a good case for all the waste on the planet demonstrating that we already are in post scarcity.

        of course enough environmental damage and we can have scarcity overnight.

        •  The thing about sustainability ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves

          ... is that the unsustainability is easily masked by the consumption of non-renewable resources, so long as those non-renewable resources are sufficiently abundant.

          But of course by the nature of things, non-renewable resources treated as if they are routinely available resources will sooner or later no longer be sufficiently abundant.

          A "post-scarcity" economy based on resources that will be exhausted in under seven generations is not really post-scarcity ... it is actually just an economy robbing future generations for the benefit of some fraction of the present generation.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:33:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, there are no guarantees. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlueDragon

        Collapse would be into anything better.  There are no guarantees in any future, but we still have to try to mnake it better.  

        Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

        by TomP on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:16:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Depends upon what people do. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlueDragon, YucatanMan, corvo

        As for the Star Trek (and other such utopian science fiction) futures, I don't know if you've glanced at David Graeber's intriguing piece in the Baffler on that topic...

        "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

        by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:17:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Feudalism proper was actually ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... not as common as an organizing principle of "pre-modern" economies as we normally imagine, as it was mostly found in Europe, Japan, and some cattle-herder cultures of south and east Africa. The fact that the first industrial revolution was located in Europe and the other industrial revolution of a distinct origin was in Japan obscures the greater frequency of economic systems organized around empire, theocracy and clans.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:29:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  great diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto

    it is my  contention that capitalism as we grew up with has already collapsed and that we are floating on the dregs of it into something more dystopian.

    extreme capitalism works for me

    monopoly capitalism does not since it seems too normal and doesn't take into account the global forces at work right now, at least for the average person encountering that phrase.

    some of the other suggestions above are interesting and i like the post 1973 stuff.

    1973 is the moment i became an employable adult with my  master's degree.  

  •  I think a Hybrid of both is the future... (4+ / 0-)

    A socialistic system that protects the bottom end of society from destitution with a capitalistic top end rewarding those who provide great value to the system.

    I just don't think humans are emotionally mature enough as a species to have a really effective purely socialistic system.

    The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

    by fToRrEeEsSt on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:44:22 PM PDT

    •  Basically what the US is now. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

      by shrike on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:14:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Except for ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lawrence, fToRrEeEsSt, WB Reeves

        ... the socialistic system protecting the bottom end of society from destitution does not do so, and the top end rewarding those who provide great value to the system more often rewards those who are the most effective saboteurs of the system.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:21:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  As Bruce below says... (0+ / 0-)

        Our bottom end doesn't do its job and our top end can often reward those who do little or take a lot from the system.

        Look at Germany today...

        Great workers rights great, social programs, people are taken care of so there is little hunger, homelessness, medical bankruptcy etc...

        But at the same time people can become wealthy with in the system, maybe its really hard to become a billionaire, but to me thats a good thing.

        Keeping the wealth spectrum more tight generally means a better standard of living for all.

        The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

        by fToRrEeEsSt on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 05:11:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Why is 'socialism' & 'capitalism' the ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, WB Reeves

      ... either/or?

      Feudalism is a possibility, as is syndicalism, as is communitarianism ...

      Given that the current system of transnational corporate capitalism is not sustainable, those who favor some form of socialism would be well advised to work on establishing the seeds of their system in place so that socialist institutions are available to be turned to when the current system collapses.

      However, whatever replaces the current system, something will, given that the current system cannot be sustained.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:24:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem with this rationale: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus
      I just don't think humans are emotionally mature enough as a species to have a really effective purely socialistic system.
      ...is that, if people lack the maturity to self-manage in a socialist, egalitarian way of living, why is it considered more realistic for these same immature people to behave better in a society built upon systemic exploitation?

      If we're all so greedy and incapable of mutual cooperation, and instead tend to selfishness, why is it logical to build a social structure which accentuates that greed? Wouldn't the result be disastrous?

      I think the answer is now self evident.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 02:27:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Greaty diary. However: (5+ / 0-)

    While it is true that capitalism will not last indefinitely, it does seem determined to take the planet down with it.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:04:46 PM PDT

  •  It is an uphill climb because...... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    .....capitalism is very quickly destroying government and nations. It is leaping across boundaries and has the enormous engine of China behind it now.

    Many low information Republicans think of China as communist with a juvenile, and somewhat cute interest in capitalism and the "free" market.  It isn't communist. It is a capitalist dictatorship and a model for what is occurring around the world, except in the Middle East which is quickly reverting to the dark ages where clerics dominated nations.

    Capitalism looks as if it is about to crush government, except as a tool of its own expansion, in a massive, global, jury-rigged system in which capitalist dictatorships jockey for position.

    If you hate government, don't run for office in that government.

    by Bensdad on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:18:34 PM PDT

  •  Can capitalism even exist in the same space (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lehman scott

    ...without socialism?

    I've never seen that.

    But I have determined that the most skilled capitalists I ever saw, were communists.

    China case in point.



    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:22:19 PM PDT

  •  Will capitalism collapse? When? How? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jbsoul, WB Reeves

    Excellent diary, one that makes me wish that every diary on here were this thoughtful and well-reasoned.

    Systems can always collapse.  But if it were easy to perceive the beginning of a collapse, past elites would have done a much better job enacting early preventive measures.  The forces that tear systems apart are often misapprehended or unperceived until the system has literally fallen into ruins around them.  

    It is easy to point to sources of danger and tension for future human generations.  We're all familiar with global warming, overpopulation, declining growth, and concentration of capital.
    But are these only stressors that will test the system's tensile strength?  Grimacing ogres that the elite masters will overcome as they always have, by using threats of their dire consequences to extract ever more concessions from a weakened, dispirited, heterogeneous pool of global labor?

    In his comment above, TomP writes of capitalism that "certainty in its collapse turns class struggle into religion".

    Well put.  Class struggle has been our plight in the modern world for quite some time.  And there is no guarantee that a final annihilating victory of some kind is achievable, welcome, or even preferable to current conditions.  

    Is capitalism's collapse a dream?  A nightmare?  A millenial urge?  A mad attempt to transpose heaven and earth?

    The diarist is right to leave the question open.  We are always best served by working to better the world we are in, directed by a sense of what a more ideal world might be like.  

    Whether capitalism collapses or not, we can never go wrong if we center our lives and efforts around that directing principle.

    •  There is a part of this argument I do not ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jack 1966

      ... agree with ...

      " if it were easy to perceive the beginning of a collapse, past elites would have done a much better job enacting early preventive measures"

      Establishment, or "status quo", systems are in part self-reproducing because many of the decisions as to what to do are made by those who are the winners under the present set of rules.

      So set against a need to change the rules that can be seen by those who engage in an impartial, empirical study of the question stands the vested interests of those who have to make the decision to break ranks with the rest of the elite and make common cause with radical reformers.

      The conditions in which the unsustainability of the current establishment system are so clear that a sufficient minority of current elites break ranks in this way is quite uncommon: that is the gist of what we would normally call "revolutionary conditions".

      But whatever name we give to it, the collapse of our current economic system is certain. Our current economic system is pushing our ecosystems into ecosystemic collapse, and depends critically upon those ecosystems in which it is embedded. Therefore, absent radical reform, the collapse of the present system is certain. Reforming the system in a sufficiently radical way so that these collapses do not occur is one possibility, the system continuing on its current track until collapse is the second possibility, and there is no third possibility.

      Its not that its generically hard to perceive the coming collapse. We have reached the point where a fairly cursory study of the question makes it apparent that a collapse is coming. What is hard is perceiving the coming collapse when a vested interest in an elite position rests upon rules of behavior driving the system to collapse.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:19:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We disagree on certainty the system will collapse (0+ / 0-)

        You are correct that systems are predicated on elites who are engrained in macro-systems of self-reproduction.  

        What has generally happened in the past when systems (political, economic, social or some cross-cutting amalgam of them) have collapsed is that certain elite figures have made common cause with radicals in order to craft a definitive crash of the system.  Then a power struggle breaks out among authority figures (revolutionary elites, radicals, new agents, "centrists") over what new system to construct, how to construct it, and who is the new boss.  

        But let's backtrack.  It's very tough for a figure in the elite to join on in with crashing the system.  If their analysis is wrong and they miscalculate the revolutionary moment, they're pretty screwed: disgrace, imprisonment, exile, death, etc.

        That aside, I personally am not in an elite position with a vested interest in preserving the system.  

        But I do not share your belief that our economic system's crash is baked in the cake.  You write:

        But whatever name we give to it, the collapse of our current economic system is certain. Our current economic system is pushing our ecosystems into ecosystemic collapse, and depends critically upon those ecosystems in which it is embedded.  

        I cannot concur.  Our current economic system has proven perversely adaptive in the face of repeated crises, crashes, environmental devastation and real human destruction.  Some have even described its defining hallmark as that of permanent temporary emergency, or endless blinding cycles of generation and destruction, etc....

        So, yes, our system is based on pushing ecosystems into disarray.  But a total ecological collapse, long predicted, has always been avoided, partly through dumb luck, partly through technology, and party through the system's own innate propensity for rapid-fire intermingled creation and destruction...

        In short, phenomena like global warming and overpopulation are real and will tax the current economic system.  While they could lead to a crash, there is no evidence yet that can make us all agree that a collapse is certain.

        •  You are only talking one side ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... of the issue, addressing the radical change option of the two options.

          There are also systems that are not "crashed", but instead crash: things fall apart and the center cannot hold.

          The current system requires incessant, relentless growth. It is not able to cope with cyclic periods of growth and stasis, because it is a growth addicted system and cannot survive the stasis periods.

          But incessant, relentless growth cannot be provided by technical progress alone, it requires material expansion. And since our current state of material consumption is more than twice the sustainable material production of the earth, unending material expansion is not on the table.

          So indefinite perpetuation of the current system is not on the table. The two alternatives are we crash the system first, or it crashes on us.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 05:20:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think the end is written in stone (0+ / 0-)

            As I read the science and the demographics, it's just not as clear as that.

            I don't believe we have a choice between the crashing the system or letting it crash on us.  I think a third road is very possible, that of the system adapting to material exigencies and continuing as much as possible in the same mold as before.

            The system benefits from growth, and survives through downturns, slow-downs, depressions and recessions.  Why would a future stasis be any different?

            Material expansion cannot occur indefinitely.  We can't go colonize Mars or live under the sea.  But I see no reason the system cannot eventually adapt to sustainable development and re-calibrate its growth in a manner congenial to the limits the planet imposes.

            I'm not trying to be a Pollyanna.  Things will get worse.  But there just isn't any clear statistical proof a crash is inevitable.

            •  Yeah most people think this. (0+ / 0-)

              That's the scary part.  They have this great illusion that capitalism will last indefinitely.  

              The system benefits from growth, and survives through downturns, slow-downs, depressions and recessions.  Why would a future stasis be any different?
              Jason W. Moore discusses the difference between a "developmental crisis," in which the system overcomes the crisis and continues to expand, and a "terminal crisis," in which expansion is no longer possible and the system dies.  This is why a future stasis would be different, then -- when expansion is no longer possible.  This is what "peak appropriation" (see the diary above) is about.
              Material expansion cannot occur indefinitely.  We can't go colonize Mars or live under the sea.
              No doubt we can do both of those things -- the question at hand is one of whether we can do these things under a social model in which power is lodged in business profits.  It won't profit anyone to colonize Mars or the ocean floors, and this is why it's not likely to happen under capitalism.  This is one of capitalism's main flaws in this regard -- it significantly limits what we think is possible.
              But I see no reason the system cannot eventually adapt to sustainable development and re-calibrate its growth in a manner congenial to the limits the planet imposes.
              The capitalist system is based upon a singular perspective -- the perspective of capital and thus of all capitalists -- that both nature and society (conceived as "labor-power") exist as free gifts for the taking.  The capitalist system depends upon this perspective -- once we put ecological sustainability before profits, then we are no longer operating according to a profit model because we have placed another principle before that of taking.  This is, then, why capitalism will either be stopped, or it will drain the planet's material integrity for profit-making purposes until nothing is left to be commodified.

              Take a look at the numerous critiques of the "triple bottom line" concept now in the literature.  The standard argument is that, of the three "bottom lines" (economic success, ecological success, and social success), the only "bottom line" that can be quantified in terms of the immediate survival (or lack thereof) of the business itself is the economic "bottom line."  The other two "bottom lines," then, are merely optional, and thus will be ignored when the economic "bottom line" is at risk.

              The idea that government regulation will save us from capitalist predation is equally chimerical.  Capitalist government depends for its tax receipts upon the success of capitalist businesses, and thus the assigned role of the capitalist state is to defend the profit rate.  Moreover, under capitalism government business itself becomes a commodity which can itself be purchased (regardless of laws against bribery, which merely forbid the immediate trade of money for action) through campaign donations.  So, no, capitalist government won't save us, because its logic is also business logic.  Government must act in ways which run directly contrary to business logic if it is to save us from capitalism -- thus socialism.

              "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

              by Cassiodorus on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 05:25:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But I'm not most people (0+ / 0-)

                Thank you so much for your considered, scholarly diary.  You do us all a great service, and we need more like it!

                I'm not a cheerleader for capitalism, far from it.  On the one hand, I find it a morally repugnant system in which we have only maintained humane principles due to activists fighting a losing battle for workers, for social justice, for ecology.  On the other hand, the system is a ruthlessly efficient and powerful money multiplier.

                Its demise has often been predicted and turned out to be greatly exaggerated.  So I'm critical of claims the end is nigh, as was your diary as it examined the possibilities of a crash without asserting its inevitability.

                As for future stasis, I understand Moore's theory but do not see evidence proving a coming crisis would be "terminal".  Perhaps the system reformulates growth to a model of, say, endless rebuilding and refurbishing rather than extracting finite resources.  Some argue we are already seeing that begin.  Growth could then continue, just in a somewhat different manner than in the past.

                I agree, a crash could occur.  There is just no proof it will.

                I contend that biological limitations rather than capitalistic practices are what will disallow human colonies undersea or on Mars.

                I disagree that capitalism enshrines no other principle but profit.  Profit is definitely primary.  But capitalism as embodied in society has always, always been hemmed in, shaped and contained by other non-capitalistic principles.  And that's true from Adam Smith's theory through every Western government down to our times.  The 8-hour day wasn't produced by a drive for profit, nor were pollution standards, etc., etc.  

                Ecological principles have often been placed before profit.  They have limited profits, killed companies, changed industries.  Yes, not to the extent we want.  And yes, it is possible the profit-driven world will make the planet unlivable for humans.  There's just no proof the crash is at hand.  While we wait for it, we have to continue fighting in the dismal capitalist world to restrain rapacious profiteering and craft what niches for humane living that we can.

                Governments (unlike businesses) require social and ecological success (or an appearance of interest therein) in order to survive.  It is not true to say they have always acted only in the interests of the bottom line and always only supported the bosses.  Yes, they support private business and live off a cut of its earning.  But they also create tremendous dikes of legislation, juridical and tax codes to shape its course aggressively and hem in and control to some degree its rampages and continual assaults on nature and people.

                No one believes capitalist government will "save us".  But as long as private property and money-making are still around -- and there is no solid evidence they are on their last legs -- we have no option but mixed governments in which we have to fight like hell to avoid having them sink into the mire of a mere capitalistic instrument.  

                Like you, I want a better world.  But I live in a real human world full of nastiness and the sublime, mud and glory.  We've been stuck in the current system awhile, and we'll probably be stuck in it awhile longer.  We need theory as a base to fight the evils of our times, but I will be critical when theory commends itself as an inevitable new stage of history that is forever around some elusive next corner we never seem quite to reach.

                •  nobody can predict the future with certainty (0+ / 0-)
                  I agree, a crash could occur.  There is just no proof it will.
                  Of course there isn't.  I don't claim to be what Isaac Asimov called a "psychohistorian." But --
                  I will be critical when theory commends itself as an inevitable new stage of history
                  I do think that a new stage of history is inevitable.  I think I've shown pretty thoroughly that THIS stage of history can't go on indefinitely as it has.  That said, I think that it's impossible to predict what-exactly this new stage of history will contain.

                  "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

                  by Cassiodorus on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 11:34:13 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  We can 'let' the system adapt to ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... the material exigencies, but if it changes its existing rules of behavior sufficiently to do so, then that system isn't our present system of relatively unfettered transnational capitalism any more.

              I'm not the one who originally characterized any radical change of the current system as "crashing" the current system, but in those terms we crash the system before it crashes the natural systems it is embedded within.

              Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 10:17:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But the system has been flexible all along... (0+ / 0-)

                One of the difficulties of subverting it is that the system has always fluctuated.  "Unfettered transnational capitalism" has never really existed, which is precisely why you had to qualify it as "relatively" unfettered.

                Worker-friendly and eco-friendly restraints have come and gone and come and gone again.  I think in the end, you and I can agree that the more we can encourage them to grow and gain strength, the better.

                Perhaps one day they can and will become the directing value of our world rather than a mere counter-weight to the mad money machine.  

                That would be most welcome!  And we can leave to wacked out bloggers of the indeterminate future the debate as to whether or not the old system persists or has been "crashed".  We need to work to make that happen by hook or by crook --  whether or not the system eventually so bludgeons the natural world that it crashes.  

                •  However, the current system of ... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Cassiodorus

                  ... corporate capitalism has never had to survive in conditions of zero material growth, so you cannot appeal to its flexibility as its evolved during centuries of unceasing material expansion as "proof" of its ability to survive being regularly faced with a decade or more of little or no economic growth.

                  And while its true that the system has survived substantial fetters being put onto it in the first part of the last century, but the vested interests in the system also worked tirelessly to undermine those fetters, at first moderating them and then moving on to destroying them. And that is incompatible with long term ecological sustainability.

                  Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                  by BruceMcF on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 11:30:00 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes. There is no proof it will endure - or crash (0+ / 0-)

                    We simply don't know how the system will change when faced with a different growth model as the world reaches some sort of population carrying capacity.

                    There's no "proof" it can endure in a recognizable form.  There's no "proof" it will crash either.  

                    I totally agree, however, that the more the system is controlled by business interests, the less it is compatible with ecological sustainability.  That's the whole game these days.  Right now, all governments are tilted far out of whack by their obsession with growth at the expense of sustainability.  Much of the damage has already been done (global warming).  And we're a long, long way from governments with a healthy orientation toward sustainability.  

                    The revolution, whatever form it takes and end it achieves, has to be green.

                    It's terribly sad and frustrating to bear witness to the natural world literally melting away under our feet.  

  •  One substantial logical fallacy in this is ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence

    ... "I don't believe that it can turn into 'System X', therefore it must persist indefinitely".

    The sustainability or unsustainability of the form of transnational corporate capitalism that we have does not depend on anybody's imagined alternative being workable.

    That is, if it is headed toward collapse, then it will collapse, and disagreements over what will follow does not, in fact, forestall that collapse.

    This is the critical distinction between "will be replaced by superior system X", and "will collapse, because it cannot be sustained".

    IOW, suppose that you own a house, and are having trouble coming up with a replacement. If you cannot make up your mind, you might stick with your house indefinitely. Now suppose the house is taken out by a tornado. Sticking with the current house indefinitely is no longer on the table as an option.

    Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

    by BruceMcF on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 03:07:53 PM PDT

  •  Capitalism may last as long as civilization does. (0+ / 0-)

    And since we will be over 800 ppm CO2 in one hundred years, and above 4°C global warming, I'd guess that civilization has at most 100 years left - possibly much less.

    After that the survivors will be living in pockets of dark age feudalism in those areas that still have water. But the climate will go on jacking around for millennia, and the feudal pockets may not survive for very long.

    Then again, there isn't that much difference between capitalism and feudalism.

  •  capitalism is doomed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    And I think it may only have a generation left, if that.

    It will end when it consumes everything in sight, and we get tired of being used by worthless people who do nothing but take money.

  •  Excellent article. Lots of food for thought! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

    by Eric Stetson on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 07:54:44 PM PDT

  •  Capitalism? Socialism? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    Hey Cass, Thanks for the shoutout to my NC post. I’m having a bit of trouble with categories. I agree that the present system is doomed. It’s doomed because it’s trying to implement the iron law of oligarchy and transform a complex adaptive system into a mechanical system under the control of the oligarchy that will be too rigid to adapt successfully to its environmental challenges.

    That said, I find it hard to talk about capitalism and socialism without further clarification of what we mean by these terms. They are used too loosely among the public and the Press.

    When I was young they had a reasonably clear meaning. But now everyone just bandies about those labels, and I’m never certain what they’re talking about. So when you say “socialism” and “capitalism” what do you mean?

  •  I remember reading that Wallerstein article (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, BruceMcF

    which only came out a few years ago.  I spread the gospel even to my rightist interlocutors: its not even so much about "liberal" versus "conservative" anymore; it's about what we want to be once capitalism completes its devolution.  We can either live with something really awful, or relatively doable.  That is the struggle that will define us for the next half-century.  Those who think they will be at the top of the heap if the really awful scenario transpires (what most Republicans believe), are in for a surprise.

    •  Thanks ConservatismSuxx! (0+ / 0-)

      I appreciate your input -- and it's good that people are reading Wallerstein!  Have you read anything by Kees van der Pijl?  I think he's a better writer about world-systems theory than Wallerstein, but maybe that's just me.

      "It's not my fault reality is marxist." - Che Guevara

      by Cassiodorus on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 09:56:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Exceptionally fine diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, BruceMcF

    Nothing "lasts indefinitely". Certainly not the social constructs created by humans. Any argument based on the contrary assertion is delusional nonsense.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 04:20:54 AM PDT

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