Capitalism, eternal system?

There are those who think concentrative capitalism is the only way an economy, our countries, the entire planet can function. They acknowledge it is a flawed system but they claim there is not a better one, similar to what is usually said about democracy (which is the less imperfect of the known government systems). In their opinion, contemporary capitalism would be the last stage in the development of economic systems; an illusionary and in fact delusional end of history; something that has come here to stay; that can be adjusted here and there but that, in essence, becomes an eternal system. This perspective expresses a certain ignorance or arrogance, qualities that usually grow hand in hand, although it might also be considered an ideological defense of privileges acquired by those who have benefited from the wealth concentration process that prevails almost worldwide. History, social sciences, the experience of communities and societies show there are no eternal systems since that eternity is of impossible nature. Ernesto Sábato claimed with refined irony that “eternal systems have one characteristic: they last very little. They all aspire being an Absolute Truth, but the history of philosophy is the history of Systems, meaning the history of Systems’ Collapse”.

Capitalism as we know it today has caused breakthroughs and also tremendous negative impacts: vast extraction of value by minority sectors, social inequity, conflicts among countries, environmental damage, recurrent systemic instability, irresponsible consumerism, aggravated criminal systems, unwanted migrations, media concentration, democratic system manipulation with severe consequences regarding representation of people’s will and governance, prevalence of values of greed without taking fellow countrymen into consideration, alienation and loss of existential meaning, to name a few of the most important. Those negative consequences of the way concentrative capitalism works are part of the so called ‘externalities’, perhaps not sought but that result from, or are foreseeable outcomes of, that particular way of functioning.

In order to face those unwanted externalities diverse efforts have been deployed in the attempt of containing the ‘wildest’ aspects of contemporary capitalism, which are linked one way or another to its concentrative nature. They were expressed as sustainable development, development with a human face, inclusive capitalism, responsible capitalism and even socialist capitalism (as to being able to integrate China into the capitalism family). All these are valuable attempts oriented to adjust a trajectory that puts the entire planet’s fate at risk to favor certain minorities. They were not able, however, to transform one of capitalism’s crucial features: capital being the organizer for its own benefit of the global and national economic systems. Concentrated capital holds enough power to decisively influence politics and governments, as well as social values and the mechanisms that impose them (media, educational system, think tanks, among others). This worsens when a segment of capital, financial capital, for the most part parasitic in the sense that it does not generate but extract value, displaces productive capital from the economic and political steering wheel.

Anyhow, transformational attempts have allowed to visualize that other ways of socioeconomic functioning exist and that in order to approach them it is necessary to, on the one hand, preserve the valuable accomplishments achieved so far and, at the same time, dismantle those enormous privileges that, focused on ensuring their reproduction, prevent changing the current systemic course.

It is worth clarifying that transformational energy does not attempt to eliminate capital as a productive factor but it seeks to change its concentrative nature, democratize it so that it belongs to all and not just some actors, to place it and the other factors that make the productive process possible on a more equal footing. This means, that all actors involved in the development process at a local, national and global level, preserving their individual rights and the diversity of identities that enriches social functioning, subordinates their interests and economic ambitions to the general wellbeing and the planet’s survival.

The fact is that an economic system that grows produces surpluses that accumulate over time. That surplus accumulation can concentrate in a few hands or, alternatively, be distributed with different equity degrees among the entire population, whether it is done directly or through the State that channels them as to provide justice, security, social and productive services. If the State is dominated by minority sectors, it imposes rules of functioning that tend to generate or facilitate concentration, enabling those minorities to obtain exorbitant privileges [[Thousand of examples of ‘exorbitant’ privileges can be found at all latitudes of this planet. Suffice it is to point out as an outrageous reference that the fortune owned by United States three most wealthy persons is equivalent to the gross domestic product of almost half a hundred countries in the developing world: three people own greater wealth than hundreds of millions of human beings!]] . What they are not explicit about is that this type of privileges is attained by taking advantage of the entire existing infrastructure our nations generated and, frequently, at the expense of other people’s wellbeing.

Seldom is the imposition of concentrative policies so blunt it becomes easily recognizable. If it were so, it would be more likely that those hard-hit would react and organize to dismantle the exorbitant privileges. What usually happens is that subtle mechanisms of extraction of value [[See some of these mechanisms in the [article Differentiating generation, redistribution and extraction of value->]. ]] that enable concentrating wealth in a more or less concealed manner are implemented; wealth progressively accumulates in a few hands generating a dynamic that feeds itself and accelerates over time.

This heavily based on value extraction and windfall profits accumulation dynamic is accompanied by an intense public opinion manipulation in order to cover up its consequences and minimizing adverse reactions. Those who benefit from concentration accomplish this purpose by financing, acquiring or influencing media, educational institutions and strategic think-tanks that end up being aligned or functional to their interests.

These institutions promote the notion that contemporary capitalism, even with its imperfections, is all there is and no other system can successfully replace it. They set as an example the failure of the communist experience and the coming and going of socialist ideas. They call themselves guardians of human rights despite that a tremendous inequity prevails in the world and that billions of human beings have no access to acceptable levels of physical and psychological wellbeing; they proclaim freedom of speech and circulation of ideas but they vigorously limit their generation and dissemination; they speak of representative democracies but manipulate the democratic system affecting the representativeness of those who are elected and the very democratic governability.

With such powerful forces preaching it, it should not come as a surprise that the belief that beyond capitalism there is nothing but an enormous, dangerous and unpredictable great empty space lasts. An empty space so unknown, and out of ignorance threatening, such as that other one at the end of the fifteenth century when Europeans feared heading their caravels west because many believed the ocean would end abruptly.

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