There are people who would proclaim 'End of Capitalism' as each new crisis breaks, only to be proved wrong. Just as Marx did in his time, they see this end coming in every war or revolution, and indeed, in big and small financial crisis - from great depressions to currency crisis to stock market crashes. They see germination of an alternative from the triumph of socialist agenda in Vietnam or Venezuela, or a general apocalypse in climate change or a Russian face-off. In short, they seem to expect a definitive, episodic end of capitalism.
But nothing yet has come of it. 'Capitalism', the beast these thinkers aspired of killing, has only come back stronger, proving its resilience through defying the odds. Stock markets that went down went up eventually, financial crisis dissolved into stability, revolutionary regimes decayed into business as usual and the apocalypse failed to arrive. Ironically, as it defied misplaced expectations of its demise, it seemed Capitalism can not end.
However, it is perhaps worthwhile asking whether a system like Capitalism can indeed have a definitive end. And, if it is its detractors created such an expectation, they have also allowed 'capitalism' to be defined in most diffused of ways - in terms of market exchanges, private property and pursuit of self-advancement. Such common concepts and desires, ingrained in our language stretching all through known history, make capitalism appear perennial and its end, an idea without precedence. And, both in capitalism defined in terms of some of the commonest markers of everyday life and the revolutionary expectation of a dramatic end lies the impossibility of such an end.
And, yet, there are reasons to believe that our economic systems need changing. It is strange that such admissions are most pronounced within what we would call the 'capitalist' literature, talks of business gurus and strategy firms. Disruption, Revolution and Paradigm Shift are in common use, and investors and entrepreneurs fully embrace those ideas. They talk about obsolescence of industrial age ideas and look for new ones. Read closely and you will know that there is an admission that Capitalism isn't working, only because, as some of the proponents of the new view believes, what we have is not the 'real capitalism'. The advocates of 'real capitalism' mourn the complicated politics of regulation and welfare, all the democratic rhetoric that goes with it, as it reigns in the 'animal spirits', a free-for-all world where nothing except the rights to maximise returns on privately owned capital would be sacred. This is indeed inherently unsustainable, as one starts stripping away the laws made over last hundreds of years, it automatically strips away the legitimacy of any property rights that exist - going back to the 'state of nature' comes with acknowledging land and other property actually belongs to no one!
But this question of 'real capitalism', rather than indicating the strength of the system, signal what the 'end of capitalism' debate misses. First, that Capitalism as we know it is a cultural rather than an economic system. Second, the cultural systems fade, rather than being thrown out like a political regime, overnight. And, third and finally, cultural systems fade when its foundations, built around relationships, economic and social, become unstable.
This 'fading of', rather than 'ending', should let us see what is in trouble. To start with, democracy is in serious trouble, both because the advocates of 'real capitalism' believes that it is coming in the way of profits and responsible for the fall in the rates of profit (which is spreading worldwide), and the middle class supporters of democracy believes that it is not delivering growth and leaning too much on to new claimants rising from poverty. One could see Capitalism as an economic system and democracy as a political system, but they are one and the same in the cultural schema of Capitalism. The key difference between feudalism and capitalism is the question of agency: We must vote ourselves into being exploited! Treating democracy as merely a political system - to be abandoned when it becomes cumbersome - undermines the cultural system of capitalism.
Then, the foundations of Capitalist production - consumption through credit creation on the demand side and participation through labour on the supply side - are also becoming shaky. These are two sides of the same phenomenon: The rise of the machines! The quest for higher rates of profit are driving automation, and exclusion of labour, which, in turn, not only limiting the ability to consume and play a part, through pledging of future labour, in credit creation, but also limiting the number of people participating in production. This undermines the all-encompassing culture of capitalism, through economic exclusion of a lot of people.
The political and the economic exclusions reinforce one another. Indeed, a fashionable idea today is to provide everyone a basic income. Outlandish as it may sound - this may be as far from 'real capitalism' one could get - this provides an interesting insight how cultural systems fade away, and therefore, worth exploring. The Universal Basic Income provides everyone an income, and resolve the existential crisis of consumption and credit creation on the demand side. However, while it is supposed to be designed for preservation of the current system, it is easy to see how it undermines the cultural system of Capitalism. The debate - who will pay for an Universal Basic Income - has one clear answer: The machines! There are many ways of paying for this, but one could be done with the least amount of disruption. All countries allow a more lenient treatment of the income from capital, dividends, than the income of labour, wage, as it is assumed that capital investment creates jobs. However, they don't - not anymore - as more and more capital is invested into automation and replacing workers in search of greater profits. So, the most commonsense way to do this is to tax dividends as one taxes the wages - no exemptions - and one can find a way to fund an universal basic income. Of course, in reality, the Governments are set to do just the opposite: The conversation is to LOWER corporate taxes and LOWER welfare, despite all the evidence of technological unemployment. This is indeed what the 'real capitalism' advocates want, but this is also precisely the kind of thing that exclude a lot of people, and weaken the cultural consensus of Capitalism.
Remember how feudalism ended? One could say it did not end at all - as feudal relationships still persist - but it did not end through the storming of Bastille or the Winter Palace. Rather, it just fell out of favour, became an inconvenient way of ruling and managing the state and conducting the conversations. The most feudal of the great powers, the Habsburg Austria, literally committed suicide in search of 'real' vainglory. And, such will be the end of time for Capitalism, as its most ardent preachers and true believers unleash its 'real' form stripped of the cultural trappings, and discover the illusion of its being.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.