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Issue 233
November/December 2005
The Answer is still Peace

Welcome

CRITIQUE OF CAPITALISM
by
From 'Trees in Snow' series Photograph: Abbas Kiarostami

From 'Trees in Snow' series Photograph: Abbas Kiarostami

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CRITIQUE OF CAPITALISM

THE TWENTIETH CENTURY was dominated by two opposing ideologies: communism and capitalism. Communism collapsed, as practised in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. What is left in China is not communism: it is an authoritarian state with a capitalist economy. So capitalism seems to rule the world. It claims to be the only system capable of solving the world's problems. Mrs.Thatcher, one of the great apostles of capitalism, claimed, "There is no alternative."

In his radical and controversial article, Sir John Whitmore questions that claim. He shows that not only is capitalism incapable of solving the problems of humanity, but in fact hunger, pollution, the breakdown of social fabric, human unhappiness and many other problems are caused by capitalism. In his view there is no such thing as good capitalism or compassionate capitalism or capitalism with a human face. Without beating about the bush he states that capitalism is bad, bad, bad! Sir John comes from a capitalist background, and is a coach for many business leaders. So we need to pay attention to what he says.

All past efforts towards a free-market economy, world trade, globalisation, industrialisation, the pursuit of high living standards, unlimited economic growth and every other form of capitalist endeavour have benefited only a small minority; the big players. As far as the vast majority of people around the world are concerned, capitalism has brought loss of livelihood and destruction of their environment. The promise of happiness and high living standards for all is a distant mirage, a mere promise for tomorrow.

Even where money and material goods are plentiful, selfishness, greed, competition, crime, violence and frustration prevail. Capitalist societies are left with increasing rates of cancer, obesity, depression and stress.

Capitalism has failed in human terms. But even more drastically capitalism has failed in terms of the natural environment. Capitalism is rapidly destroying soil fertility, biodiversity and the atmosphere. So capitalism founded on the ideology of unlimited economic growth and industrialised mass production is not only unsustainable - it is blatantly harmful.

Many of our readers may not agree with this position. But we at Resurgence think that this is an important area for debate. We would welcome letters from our readers on this subject.

It would be good to take Sir John's arguments further and develop a coherent alternative. In the age of ecology even socialism is not enough. It too is anthropocentric and eco-destructive, and it too advocates industrial mass production. It offers an economic system of the old paradigm. Now, if neither socialism nor communism nor capitalism, then what? We need a new system for the age of ecology, a system which is embedded in the care of all people and also in the care of the Earth and all life upon it. We need a system which replaces our capitalist worldview with a naturalist worldview, and which shifts our society from capitalism to 'naturalism'.

The speech by the Prince of Wales to the Institute of Chartered Accountants also touches on this theme. Accounting must concern itself with more than the bottom line. Counting money is not enough. Money is not wealth: it is only a measure of wealth; the real wealth is people, communities, cultures, land, forests and rivers. Accountants therefore need to take all these elements into account. The bottom line has to include social and natural as well as financial loss and gain. What kind of future would it be if we had plenty of money but a planet denuded of beauty and wild?

Once again we offer our readers a rich collection of essays - Happy Christmas.

Satish Kumar

Satish Kumar is President of Schumacher UK, Editor of Resurgence and Director of Programmes at Schumacher College.

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