I guess that's why I'm a Democratic Socialist.Why should we want to reinvent capitalism? Rather than reinvent it, we should remind ourselves why capitalism is so pernicious. We could start by stating the obvious (which, apparently, needs restating): the nature and logic of capitalism are incorrigibly avaricious. As a property system driven by the need to maximize profit and production, capitalism is a giant, ever-whirling vortex of accumulation. Anything but conservative, it’s the most dynamic and protean economy in history.
But the iniquity of capitalism goes deeper than its injustice as a political economy, its amoral ingenuity in technical prowess or its rapacious relationship to the natural world. However lissome its face or benign its manner, capitalism compels us to be greedy, callous and petty. It takes what the Greeks called pleonexia—an endless hunger for more and more—and transforms it from a tawdry and dangerous vice into the central virtue of the system. The sanctity of “growth” in capitalist culture stems from this moral alchemy, as does the elevation of market competition into a model of human affairs.
Capitalism stands condemned most profoundly not by its maldistribution of wealth or its ecological despoliation but by its systematic cultivation of people inclined toward injustice and predation. And I think we on the left need to start dismissing as utterly irrelevant the standard apologetic riposte: the material prosperity and technological achievement generated by capitalist enterprise. No amount of goods can compensate for the damage wrought on human nature by the deliberate nurturance of our vilest qualities. The desecration of the values we claim to hold most dear is the primary reason we should want to abolish, not reinvent, capitalism.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The Nation: Reinventing Capitalism - The Rebuttal
The Nation is running a fascinating suite of briefs from a wide array of thinkers on what capitalism should become. But perhaps the most interesting piece is by Eugene McCarraher of Villanova University who wrote a socialist rebuttal to the whole concept of a "reformed" capitalism. He makes some excellent points. Basically he argues that reforming capitalism is like reforming a sexual predator. It won't work. Ever. It's irretrievably corrupt (and corrupting).