The End of Capitalism

The End of Capitalism

David Harvey (2016)

In The End of Capitalism, geography and anthropology professor Anthropology David Harvey makes the case that economic crises and inequality are part and parcel of capitalism and can only be ended by dismantling the capitalist economic system.

He begins by examining the cumulative “perception control” by the corporate media that has made it virtually impossible (except perhaps in Iceland) to look at any alternative economic systems despite the deplorable performance of capitalism since the 2007 global economic crash.

Quoting from Volume 2 of Marx’s Capital, he goes to demonstrate that growth and debt are structural components of capitalism – how the amount of debt created always equals the amount of capital growth created. In fact, repaying all government debt (as many conservatives advocate) would end capitalism faster than a workers revolution.

He also quotes Reagan advisor David Stockman and former vice president Dick Cheney to demonstrate how the Reagan and both Bush administrations deliberately ramped up the deficit (on unfunded wars) as a strategy to force future administrations to cut social spending.

For me, the most interesting part of his talk is his discussion of the Chinese economy, specifically how their willingness to employ Keynesian tactics (of government deliberately spending money into the economy) to generate 10% economic growth and save the global economy from total collapse.

In elucidating a viable alternative to capitalism, Harvey quotes from volume 3 of Capital, where Marx defines capitalism as a “class relation between owner and worker such that the owner extracts surplus value (profit) from the worker’s labor.” Thus in his (and Marx’s) view, the only viable alternative is a system of worker self-management of our own productive process (ie worker cooperatives). He believes such a system would coordinate production via a Just in Time networking strategy similar to those used by Wall Street corporations.

The video has an extremely long introduction and Harvey starts speaking at 8.00.


The Fuck It Point

The Fuck It Point

Savage Revival (2012)

Film Review

The Fuck It Point occurs when you fear the evil of the current system more than you fear actively organizing to tear it down. A growing number of activists around the world have reached this point (which Paul Hawken discusses in Blessed Unrest). We still have a little further to go to reach critical mass.

The specific fears that deter people from attempting to dismantle the current economic system are fear of losing privilege, fear of police brutality, fear of imprisonment, fear of death, fear of chaos and instability, fear of failing and, most importantly, fear that other people will think badly of us.

After summarizing a wealth of evidence that capitalism is doomed, The Fuck It Point asks whether it makes more sense to let it collapse on its own or to take active steps to dismantle it. The filmmakers maintain if we sit and waiting for the crash, the people who have prepared will “hold all the cards.”

The film focuses a lot of attention on corporate media manipulation that promotes apathy and passivity. Even when peoples know they’re being ruthlessly exploited, they can be too psychological paralyzed to do anything.

The public relation industry continually recycles do-nothing messages. One day they tell us that climate change and mass extinction is easily fixed with the right technology. The next day that the ecosystem is too far gone to do anything. The day after that they blame us for the global ecological crisis and urge us to buy more eco-friendly products.

The film also challenges the myth that humans can no longer survive without civilization. The obvious reality is that human beings can’t survive without clean, non-toxic air, water and food and robust social relationships – which are increasingly difficult to access under the current system. People find the idea of giving up civilization unthinkable because they are addicted to it.

The filmmakers estimate that only 1/7 of the current global population achieve real benefit from our current economic system. The other 6/7 would experience an immediate improvement in their life circumstances if it collapsed.

Capitalism Works for Me – True or False?

Capitalism Works for Me is a public art exhibit Steve Lambert created in 2011. It’s been touring internationally for the last three years. The first video is a brief cameo of the Capitalism Works for Me exhibit in Times Square.

In the second video, Lambert discusses his inspiration for the project, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s observation that people find it easier to contemplate the end of human existence than the end of capitalism.

Lambert also talks about the erroneous tendency to equate capitalism and civilization and the false assumption that ending capitalism is comparable to ending civilization.

He hopes Capitalism Works for Me will help to challenge this assumption.



Vote now:

The End of Growth

End of Growth

The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality

by Richard Heinberg

(New Society Publishers Aug 2011)

(This is the sixth of a series of posts about stripping private banks of the right to issue money. It stresses the link between our debt-based monetary system and the drive for perpetual economic growth.)

The basic premise of The End of Growth is that the world economy has flat-lined. Not only is it contracting, rather than expanding as most politicians claim, but there are important reasons why it will never return to pre-2007 growth levels. The reason? The last two centuries of continuous economic expansion were only possible due to the ready availability of cheap fossil fuels. Growing fossil fuel scarcity has caused energy costs to skyrocket. And this, according to Heinberg, is the main reason for declining economic growth.

As well as making an strong case that economic expansion has ended, Heinberg also writes about far-sighted governments (Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland) that are enacting policies to ensure the welfare of their citizenry as they confront new economic realities.

Heinberg and others in the Peak Oil/climate change movement have always argued that infinite economic expansion is mathematically impossible on a finite planet with finite natural resources. The End of Growth highlights the massive ecological devastation caused by this reckless obsession with economic growth, while warning that we are depriving our children and grandchildren of natural resources (fossil fuels, water, industrial fertilizers, fish stocks, top soil) that may be needed for basic survival.

In Heinberg’s previous work, he predicts it will take a decade or more before fossil fuel scarcity causes the capitalist economic system to hit the wall. In The End of Growth, he argues it already has: in October 2008. While a few countries can claim an occasional quarter of increased GDP, aggregate global economic growth is either stagnant or slowly contracting. Even China’s so-called economic “miracle” hasn’t been sufficient to generate a genuine increase in total global wealth.

The Ultimate Ponzi Scheme

Heinberg goes on to explain how private banks use the fractional reserve system to invent money out of thin air. In a global economic system where money can only be created by issuing bank loans, there’s never enough money in the system to repay all the debt. This means the global economy can only function via continual creation of new loans. And continuous economic growth is essential to make this happen.

Heinberg’s analysis of the 2008 meltdown starts with an introduction to classical economic theory, and a discussion of of the “financialization” of the US economy that occurred in the 1980s. There’s a detailed discussion of the risky financial derivatives that led to a decade of speculation and “debt” bubbles. The largest was the subprime/derivative boom, in which massive amount of borrowed money was speculated on derivatives and subprime mortgages that couldn’t be repaid. The debt bubble created was so large it plunged the entire world economy into depression when it burst.

The End of Growth in China

Heinberg also presents a painstaking analysis of why the China’s current phenomenal growth rate (7-8% per year) and somewhat slower growth rates in India, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam also represent “bubbles” that will eventually pop and trigger recession. China is pursuing the identical economy strategies that caused the Japanese economic miracle to collapse in the 1990s – resulting in a two decade long recession.

Life in a Steady State Economy

Obviously the end of economic growth, and continuing job, wage and benefit cuts mean that people in most industrialized countries will be forced to massively downsize their lifestyles. Outside the US, some far sighted governments are intervening in ways to make this transition less painful. Heinberg gives examples of countries (Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Norway) who openly acknowledge the reality of their steady state economies and pursue policies that make it easier for their citizens to adjust.

Sweden, for example, has transformed depressed industrial towns into “ecomunicpalities,” by “dematerializing” their economies. They have made them into fossil fuel-free towns with organic farming, public transportation and alternative energy projects – while simultaneously fostering social equity.