Anthem Books (23 August 2005)
Capitalism is a source of social progress and as such it is inevitable. It has allowed us to leave behind our hand-to-mouth existence and given us time for recreation, for social interaction, for cultural and intellectual pursuits. But capitalism is also inhuman. It undermines our social relationships, destroys communities and traditional ways of life, it turns everything into commodities that are bought and sold in markets. In addition, capitalism streamlines our lives, making everything more and more bland, and us, the consumers, increasingly alike.
Caught between these contradictory imperatives, all successful societies have encouraged capitalism while at the same time also protecting themselves against it. And every society has dealt with this conflict in its own unique way. We have our families to support us, our clubs, associations and churches, and we have the state to protect our rights and our welfare. These solutions are not without problems to be sure, but all in all they work. This is how we have survived capitalism.
But now these support structures seem to be weakening. Our families are falling apart, we no longer spend time in clubs and associations, churches are in decline, and our states are losing power. All the while, economic markets are growing both in size and in power. While society is becoming ever weaker, markets are becoming ever stronger. With renewed force, capitalism is tearing away at the fabric of our societies and threatening to lay waste to the lives we have made for ourselves. The situation is disturbing and the consequences far-reaching. What is going to happen to us? In a fully globalised world, how will we survive capitalism?
Erik Ringmar is senior lecturer in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science
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