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A great deal of time and money is spent, both by governments and companies, trying to answer these questions, as well as they can which is, inevitably, not very well. Maybe my children would have more than me; maybe not. Either way, the condition of the future was unlikely to have much to do with human activities.

This is why pre-capitalist societies tended to be deeply religious; a good harvest was in the hands of weather systems, which in turn meant it was in the hands of the Gods. Marx accused religion of being the opium of the masses, distracting them from capitalist exploitation.

But capitalism has steadily undermined religion by reliably promising that the future will in fact be materially better, and not because of divine intervention but because of the manmade market. The greatest promise of capitalism is that each generation will rise, on the shoulders of the one before, as a result of the natural workings of a market economy. It should be no surprise that the greatest challenges to capitalism come when that promise begins to be questioned. If capitalism loses its lease on the future, it is in trouble.

Markets run on psychology. We work to live see my previous essay in the series on work. At an individual level, we might say we are saving for a rainy day. But collectively, savings allow for capital accumulation, for investment, which spurs growth. The basic human instinct to see our children flourish has been powerfully channeled through market-led growth.

We work not only for ourselves, but for our children. We might invest in their education, so that their enhanced skills will mean a better life. People will invest in a better future if — and it is a very big if — there is a good chance that it will pay off, that the system reliably delivers that better future.

Capitalism not only produces a society focused on the future, it requires it. If the promise of a better future starts to fade, a vicious cycle sets in. Why save? Why sacrifice? Why stick at education for longer? If doubt creeps in, people may work less, learn less, save less — and if they do that, growth will indeed slow, fulfilling their own prophecies. The biggest threat to capitalism is not socialism. It is pessimism. Right now, there are three big challenges to the capitalist promise of a better tomorrow: slower income growth for many across their own working lives and into retirement; diminishing odds that children will, economically, do better than their parents; and a deepening climate crisis.

First, the expectation of a steadily growing income over time has become harder to meet, as growth slows and job uncertainty grows. Upwards earnings mobility across the span of a working life has dropped. In part this is because of a growing premium of acquiring skills early, and getting on a fast track from the start of a career. It has become harder to move up the ladder if you start at the bottom. Corporate CEOs used to boast of starting out in the mailroom.

There will not be many of those stories in the future. Not only is income growth slower today than a generation ago, for some workers there is also more volatility in terms of wages, in part because of more uncertain schedules, but also because of the risk of losing a job in a sector affected by trade or, more likely, automation and having to take another job at a lower wage. Some volatility is good: an unexpected bonus, or a good year in a side enterprise.

But much of it comes in the form of a loss of income. These downward economic shocks are psychologically demanding. The reliability of a flow of income is as important, to many, as its size. But workers displaced by automation have been treated as effectively disposable by policymakers. Retraining schemes have been almost universally ineffective. Many scholars now argue for some form of wage insurance to compensate for downward shocks to pay.

Second, the assumption that our children will do better than us is being threatened. Still, the fact remains: intergenerational mobility has slowed. This is for two main reasons: economic growth has slowed, and the proceeds of that growth have accrued to a much smaller slice of the population — the people at the top. Chetty estimates that about a third of the mobility drop can be explained by slower growth; the rest is the result of rising inequality. This lack of upward economic lift is filtering into general consciousness. Only about one in three US parents think the next generation will be better off ; and the gloom is even deeper in many other nations, including the UK.

Mood matters.

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If the future looks less bright in general, it may seem less rational to invest in an education, take the risk of starting up a business, or move to another town in search of a better job. The interaction between facts and feelings is complicated; but it is important to strike a balance between calling out troubling trends and resorting to a general everything-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handcart declinism.

The third challenge is not psychological, but bluntly physical: the climate crisis. Increases in global temperatures, faithfully reported by the IPCC , are leading to more extreme weather events, endangering certain heavily populated areas and threatening agricultural systems. It is of course necessary to weigh costs and benefits here.

Socialism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

If economic growth is responsible for changing the climate — and it is — it has also massively increased the material welfare of billions of people. The question is whether capitalism can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem; or whether some form of deep-green socialism is the only answer. On the historical record, the socialist approach has little to commend it. The emancipation of the people does not mean the abolition of the people as in Marx the emancipation of the proletariat means — decisively — the self-abolition of the proletariat. Why and how could modern socialists mistake the abolition of caste for the abolition of class?

There are several reasons. Admirable as this is, it must have been, for all intents and purposes, a sect. What did this mean in terms of its struggle? Jacobinism was common to both. All this has pre-modern accents. Norman blood in England, Varangians in Russia, etc. This was a fundamental dilemma of Austro-Hungarian and Russian social democracy and, later, of East and South Asian communism in India and Nepal, to this very day. The result was nationalism , both in the debacle of August and in the unavoidable transformation of Leninism into Stalinism.

This seems to be the unspoken, never openly stated conclusion of the debate between Anderson, Nairn and their adversaries. But they were more or less hobbled by their desire for an authentic proletarian revolution which has never occurred in its anti-capitalist purity anywhere — yet.

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  6. But it is in the work of Ellen Meiksins Wood that all the threads come together, and the theoretical and political consequences are most clearly stated. And with it came a detachment of the social sciences from history , as social relations and processes came to be conceived as natural , answering to the universal laws of the economy …. But it is, at the same time, another Marxian correction of E.

    By the [nineteen-]eighties, the net effect of these changes was a marked disjuncture between high culture and politics in Britain. In most European cultures, such a pattern has historically been quite frequent. In England, this has not been so. The present position is an anomaly in this record …. Marxian socialism has never been attempted politically, especially not by Marxists. In almost every case, this can only be explained by the fact that they must engage with an adversary, bourgeois society, which is replete with historical imperfections derived from the caste societies out of which they emerged.

    That the retreat from Marx to Rousseau is a also tendency among Marxists, as in the most important case of E. Thompson, is of particular importance. Technically, this is sometimes a reaction against an alleged rigid determinism in Marxian class theory an allegation effectively refuted by G. Cohen 32 , but more frequently again, also in E. Caste society, the remnants of which are still with us, even today, is based on a view of human nature radically different from the Enlightenment view, so ingrained in modern thinking as to be almost invisible and implicit, scarcely in need of being articulated.

    For most of history, humanity was not thought to have been co-extensive with humankind. There was resistance to this state of affairs among some Stoics, Cynics and Epicureans, the early Christians and some medieval heretics, some Buddhists and other assorted riff-raff. Let me quote a few words from the greatest authority on the caste system:. The king is thus deprived of any sacerdotal function …. The Brahman naturally has privileges …. All this is strengthened by a well-entrenched system of prejudices.

    The English word villain , French villain, has its origin in the late Latin villanus , villager, peasant. Medieval ditties made fun of hunchbacks, beggars, cripples, fat people and, simply, the poor. Explanations for the ill-fate of some were, apart from social theodicy, racial and warlike. The upper castes were in the whole Indo-European area supposed to be fair , the servants, the aborigines, the slaves, the foreigners, swarthy.

    The complaint that kings and barons are not chivalrous and gallant, that monks and nuns are not sagacious and chaste, is perennial. For the rebels, the world is turned upside down, merit trampled underfoot, while crime is rewarded with honours and plenty. What is virtue for one caste, is not for another. Pride is good in one, humility in another. Class is unique to capitalist society.

    An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

    Within the production process, the separation of labour from its objective moments of existence — instruments and material — is suspended. Capital does not pay for the suspension of this separation which proceeds in the real production process — for otherwise work could not go on at all. This is clearly not something anybody could abolish by decree or by law. If the worker is a feature of capital, the worker can change capitalism into something else only if he or she changes himself or herself, in an extra-moral sense.

    Yet as we have seen, the retreat from socialism to egalitarianism, from Marx to Rousseau, the retreat from critical theory to ahistorical moral critique, from Hegel and Marx to Kant, has been the rule, rather than the exception, in the history of the Left. It is therefore in need of some explanation. First, one has to take into account the psychological needs of opposition to any system one was brought up in. The oldest rhetorical tricks can be employed here:. Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. But woe unto you that are rich!

    Four Futures: Life After Capitalism

    For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them, which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

    But the right to forgive will be conferred upon those who did not have the power to forgive, and thus to condemn, before. Power is being taken away and given anew, this is why the Son of Man is also called the Lord. A second reason why the retreat from socialism to egalitarianism has been the rule is the need for a trans-social or meta-social foundation for the possibility of a change which might reduce or even obliterate injustice and domination.

    In other words: a belief in the possibility of equality without upsetting too much the shape of society which — even if equality of income, opportunity, status and access to political power were achieved — would still contain elements of domination, either by government tempered by law or by various social hierarchies of command and control in the workplace, education and family, as well as a continuing social division of labour. But the strength of the state is apt to reinforce domination concentrated in the hands of the few, which will, then, further reinforce domination, naturally unfavourable to an equality of condition or of social positions and so on without end.

    Marxism, after all, proposes the abolition of the proletariat, not its apotheosis. And Simone Weil is quite right in believing that perfect solidarity with the working class means the assumption of, and acquiescence in, servitude and squalor. But this is, of course, the opposite of the sense of solidarity in the tradition of non-Marxian socialism. On the other hand, this ever-recurring retreat makes good psychological sense.

    This notion may be plausible although still unpleasant in the case of caste society, but in the case of class society, Marx is adamant that. This is not consonant with the millenary voice of rebellion. That honest toil was not paid in full, owing to the superior coercive power of the mighty.

    After Capitalism (New Critical Theory)

    These latter creations are almost invariably dark and pessimistic. The working class is not situated outside capitalism. Since it is not only classes, i. This weighty heritage inspires Rousseauian socialism. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Christopher Hill, Raphael Samuel and their confederates wrote, dreamed of a kind of egalitarian change that would be conducive to a society of market, contract and money. Above all, it does not replace hierarchy with equality, only caste or estate with class. Equality of dignity, the principle of civic rights and liberties even if most often honoured in the breach , shifted the struggle for emancipation to new levels, both more profound and more intractable.

    It should not be forgotten, either, that this element played an important role in the anti-fascist struggle not understood by purely and uncompromisingly proletarian radicals like Amadeo Bordiga and some, by no means all, left communists. An explanation is here in order. The fascists were quite serious in wanting to go back to before , as they or at least their predecessors had been announcing loudly since the s.

    We forget the backward-looking character of fascism and Nazism at our own peril. One should be careful here. It is completely, utterly, absolutely itself. It is like Rome being perfectly realized in Byzantium. Balzac and Dickens might not be able to understand the completed ultra-capitalism of today, but we see that we are the accomplished heirs of their characters. There has never been an experiment in Marxian socialism. The stumbling block was and remains the paradox of class, that is, of the exploited as a collective revolutionary agent.

    In modern capitalism, there is no inside, as there is no upwards direction. The primary quality of labour — that which ought to be liberated by socialist action — is not injustice. The best characterization I know of this is by Moishe Postone:. By contrast, exploitation and domination are integral moments of commodity-determined labour. As far as we are aware, only direct coercive social domination was ever overturned by popular revolt. This is, again, Rousseau, not Marx — or at least not the mature Marx — the analyst of bourgeois society. He did not describe the human condition when describing capitalism; indeed, his description is meant as a refutation of any such idea, and this refutation is pursued throughout his oeuvre.

    Neither value nor labour are perennial qualities of human existence, nor is class. Class, not being a human group with common interests and common moral and cultural values such as, say, solidarity and contrariness, but a structural feature of society, is not an actor. Contra E. The concomitant differences in wealth, access, etc. But this is false. So is the proletariat. That battle goes on still, to be sure, but it is essentially the battle of yesteryear. Since the state represents, and looks after, capitalism, the old-style self-representation of the working class is moribund, too, but the state is not supplanted — as was the case, at least symbolically, in the past — by political institutions of counter-power.