Contemporary civilization and its progress under capitalism are measured largely, though not exclusively, by stock market indicators and the wealth index of corporations and millionaires that mainstream media celebrates. All other issues are only significant if they enhance or diminish corporate wealth. This includes the political, social, environmental issues that may either entail greater profit opportunities or instability and lower profits. “Accordingly, the extent to which corporate democracy represents general, social interests or narrow, profit-oriented interests is largely a function of political contestation and state policy.” Carl Gershenson, “Protecting Markets from Society: Non-Pecuniary Claims in American Corporate Democracy” Politics and Society (March, 2015, vol. 43, no. 1)
This “corporate measure” of the social contract in modern society is to the exclusion of the misery index in what Frantz Fanon once called “The Wretched of the Earth”, referring to the manner that imperialism determines social class in Africa and the masses’ reaction to create a more socially just society. The conditions Fanon described pertaining to Algerian struggle against French colonialism pertains today to conditions that capitalism universally creates and perpetuates as it always has since its nascent phase in the 15th century when European colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade began. An African-American youth shot by the police in the ghetto in 2015 is just as much a victim of the same class formation that capitalism creates as an Algerian youth fighting against French colonial rule in the 1950s.
The corporate measure of the social contract and a successful civilization based on linear econometric progress of corporations is a sharp deviation from the humanist values of the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment in Western Civilization rooted in creativity, intellectual achievements in everything from the arts to natural sciences, and to the welfare of humanity as a whole. The corporate measure of the social contract is an assertion of elitism and inequality and a rejection of humanist values and social justice.
Apologist of capitalism would of course give credit to capitalism as a system for unlocking human creative potential of such scientific and technological innovation. Since the transition in the 15th century from the Feudal/Manorial social order/mode of production to capitalism there have been phenomenal technological and scientific inventions intended to improve everything from human health and comfort to unlocking the secrets of the universe. The same apologists, however, do not fault capitalism for structural poverty that persists on a world scale; for the countless wars in the name of capturing markets and increasing profits that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions in the last five centuries; for societal violence emanating from socioeconomic inequality; and for human rights abuses and absence of social justice that are invariably at the core of capitalism.
In the post-Communist era, the specter haunting the entire world is neo-liberalism, driving many people to seek alternatives in some form of Socialism. The fall of Communist regimes had their experiments with one-party states and “command economies” in the name of the proletariat in the 20th century. Those regimes failed for a variety of reasons including constant assault from capitalist countries at every level from the costly arms race to counterinsurgency operations and ideological propaganda campaigns. In the early 21st century many people are wondering if the “End of History” celebrating the US Cold War victory over Communism (Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man) that marked capitalism’s triumph means anything more than hegemony of the wealthy over the rest of the world’s population in every domain from economy and politics to the arts for profit.
Capitalism under neoliberal policies is indeed without rivals throughout the planet in the post-Communist era where the US remains the world’s sole superpower despite China’s economic challenge. Communism as it operated during the Maoist era no longer exists even in contemporary China that practices capitalism and abides by the same rules of the international market economy and its institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization. The “end of history” is indeed the end of Communist regimes but merely another step in society’s evolution and the continued struggle between the hegemonic capitalist class and the masses seeking social justice.
Do people around the world look to established Socialist parties for salvation (about 60 countries have socialist parties), or must citizens continue looking and creating grassroots socialist movements to find the best possible “social contract”? Socialist Party politicians know that there is absolutely no resemblance between a European Socialist Party today and the First International (International Workingmen’s Association, 1864-1876), or even the Second International (1889-1916) that dissolved because some European Socialists were more nationalistic than they were Marxist internationalists. Throughout Europe, political parties calling themselves Socialist are no different in representing finance capital to the detriment of the rest of society than conservative parties pursuing neoliberal policies.
Using the argument that Socialist parties are committed to social justice, defending trade unions, defending the poor, defending minorities, defending collective bargaining, and guarding against the abuses of capitalism, Socialist parties were able to keep their popular base in the post-WWII era, while securing the support of capitalists who understood the significance of social harmony under a social contract where labor and the lower middle class enjoyed some benefits and believed the system served them as well as the capitalists. However, the triumph of the US over the Communist bloc emboldened the neoliberals eager to crush even the remnants of Keynesian policies left over from the early Cold War. During the Reagan and Thatcher decade, the US and UK followed by other governments began to dismantle the social welfare state in order to strengthen defense and the corporate welfare state.
Socialist parties changed their agendas and went along with neoliberals by the 1990s. No matter the Socialist rhetoric while they are in the opposition or even when they are in government their policies are hardly any different than those of the conservatives representing a tiny minority of the population. The only resistance, a rather modest one at that, to neo-liberalism does not come from Socialist parties or Socialist governments whether in France, Spain, Portugal or Greece, but from nationalist regimes such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and a few others, and this largely for geopolitical considerations as well as domestic sociopolitical dynamics.
Socioeconomic equality, social justice and the welfare of the entire society are the themes in the debate between Socialism and capitalism. Socialist theory contends that capitalism creates and perpetuates socioeconomic inequality, social injustice and elitism against society’s collective interests.
Advocates of capitalism insist equality of opportunity for the individual is of paramount importance in the social contract that guarantees safety and security from domestic and foreign enemies. Socialist theory advocates a strong central government to safeguard social justice and the interests of all people in society, while capitalism advocates a weak central government and a hegemonic capitalist class whose interests the state safeguards by maintaining inequality through fiscal and labor policy among other mechanisms. Just as Socialism entails a social order based on a value system and a code of ethics centered on human welfare, similarly, capitalism is rooted in a social order based on a value system of amassing private profit in an unfettered marketplace where the very few benefit to the detriment of the many.
From schools and churches to sports and entertainment, from market relationships to human relationships, all institutions operating under capitalism embrace its rules in order to survive. Unless it adopts the corporate model of governance and orientation that includes links with the business world, the university seeking large endowments from wealthy people and corporations, it is not likely to survive in a competitive field. It is simply not practical to have an enclave of a prototype antithetical to capitalism in just about any domain in society because the superstructure operating under capitalist rules, values, and code of ethics would ultimately crush or make irrelevant the antithetical prototype. This is something many have discovered in the last two centuries from Robert Owen and his followers that popularized the term Socialism in the 1820s to the present.
Socialists of varying types in the 19th century amid industrialization of society understood that capitalism is a new system of servitude that dehumanizes workers for the sake of amassing wealth for capitalists. There is a gap between the promise of capitalism to provide riches for all while society becomes more industrialized, scientifically, and technologically advanced, and the reality of a system creating wealth for a small percentage of people. The majority of the world’s population is left behind to dream of becoming wealthy while subsisting in daily misery, while a middle class as a buffer between the masses and capitalists helps to maintain the social order. What happens however when the middle class begins to decline as it has in the US and across much of Western Europe in the last three decades? According to the Economic Policy Institute, the bottom 90% of Americans experienced 5% income growth between 1979 and 2007, while the top 1% of Americans enjoyed 390%, illustrating how capitalism slowly destroys itself by undermining the buffer middle class.
Werner Sombart, Krieg und Kapitalismus, (1913), and Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) analyzed the dynamics of capitalism’s contradictions, using the Marxian concept of “creative destruction” to explain the evolutionary process of the mode of production and contradictions inherent in the system. While they were both reacting to 19th century Industrial capitalism and the destruction of wars of imperialism that the capitalist system created ultimately leading to WWI, elements of the theoretical foundations of their works are applicable in our time.
In the early 21st century when capitalism prevails triumphantly under a neoliberal ideological and policy orientation, the fundamental question is what does the majority of the population want from a social contract? Because people are born into a capitalist system with the state as its guardian and promoter throughout the world, it is extremely difficult to bring the system down and replace it with any degree of ease as some believe. Those who enjoy power, wealth and privilege throughout the history of all civilizations rarely surrender what they enjoy for the sake of the good of society as some believe simply because it is the right thing to do for the welfare of society.
Human Nature and Capitalism
Is capitalism consistent with human nature and does it reflect it as apologists argue, or do institutions under capitalism simply reinforce human nature's atomistic and irrational aspects as detractors insist? In short, is capitalism in existence for five centuries because it closely reflects human aspirations, greed, irrational proclivities, the desire to amass material possessions and to live in a hierarchical society where there are few rich people and many are poor? Is humanity indeed carrying the seeds of evil from Adam and Eve as some in Western Christian tradition believe, or do human beings create structures that mold human behavior?
During the ancient times, whether 5th century B.C. Athens or 1st century A.D. Rome, prevailing ideas and culture that we know about today are those of the elites and have nothing to do with peasants, workers, or slaves. Culture makers were the elites, not the peasants, workers and slaves who carried out manual labor so that the leisure classes could devote time for their endeavors. The same holds true of the Middle Ages when the temporal and spiritual Lords prevailed in society in every respect controlling all institutions from church to the military and economy and determining everything from values to how people married and often whom they married. In short, the elites pass on to the rest of society values and code of ethics as a means of maintaining a given social order.
It is not much different with capitalism; in fact, it is much clearer under the capitalist system because the evidence is ubiquitous in all segments of society’s dominant culture. People have ingrained in their minds that institutions and the existing social order is “natural”. Just as the serfs in the Middle Ages believed God meant for them to be in servitude because this is what priest and Lord reinforced, similarly Plato argued that some human beings are meant to be slaves, dismissing the idea that slavery is a manmade institution resulting from private property and war. Under capitalism, the idea has been inculcated into the minds of the masses that if they are poor it is not because there is an economic system based on socioeconomic inequality and social injustice but it is simply their fault for any number of reasons, all of them having to do with personality traits and individual responsibility.
Going beyond the arguments of Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan and John Locke, Two Treatises of Government about whether human beings are inherently evil and prone to disharmony in the state of nature (Hobbes), or inherently good and prone to rational behavior, there is the larger issue of how the dominant culture molds the minds and behavior of people in general and how the institutional structure rewards conformity and punishes dissidence. In other words, people merely wishing to survive will conform. Palmiro Togliatti pointed out (Lectures on Fascism) that a worker will accept Fascist Party membership, brushing aside ideology that may be rooted in humanist values and code of ethics.
This is a theoretical domain to which Antonio Gramsci (Os Intelectuais e a Organização da Cultura) also made significant contributions, analyzing how the dominant culture helps to perpetuate the social order. The dominant culture of our time shaped by five centuries of capitalism has the distinct advantage just as the Feudal/Manorial Christian culture of the Middle Ages prevailed to keep the vast majority believing it was God’s will for them to be oppressed and subsist in misery finding relief only in the afterlife. Despite systemic obstacles to change in society, capitalism exists in fixed time of civilizations in different parts of the world.
Like previous systems it has developed contradictions and it will begin to decline and ultimately give way to a new order. The enemy of capitalism and the culprit of its downfall is the system itself, not Communists, Socialists, jihadists, nationalists, ultra-left guerrillas, or any external force attacking and undermining it. However, this is hardly visible not only to capitalists but to workers as well who may be fatalistic, nihilistic, apathetic, or have turned to inward spiritual endeavors as a substitute for what is lacking in the social contract.
Just as the French serf in the 10th century once believed God meant for the social order to exist as it did and there was no alternative to it. Similarly, the insurance office manager in New York City and the farm worker in southern France may be convinced by the media that capitalism is above history and will exist until the sun becomes extinct. This is what the dominant culture has ingrained into the minds of the masses so this is what they hold to be dogmatic truth in the early 21st century. This is not to say that there are not those in our time, just as there were in the Middle Ages that opposed tyranny and the absence of social justice. The dominant culture silences or minimizes the impact of dissident voices about the need for social justice and an alternative social order. Not just the Holy Inquisition, but the Lords and Bishops dealt effectively with heretics of the Medieval Era, just as the modern state under capitalism has always dealt effectively with dissidents.
The masses are much more willing than many among the elites realize to bring about change in society that would end oppression, discrimination and inequality. Although academic studies show that it takes many years, in some cases decades as in China from the First Opium War (1839-1842) to the warlords (1916-1928) to Mao’s rebel movement (Jiangxi Soviet Republic of China, 1929–1934), popular uprisings ultimately do take place as history has demonstrated. In defying elites and the dominant culture, invariably they will follow an authority figure (s) challenging the status quo, as did theologian Thomas Müntzer (1489 –1525) who took a leading role in the German Peasants’ War. The same holds true from the French Revolution to the Cuban Revolution when the masses proved more willing to support social change than the elites assumed or wanted to believe. Social change is very slow while social discontinuity as Western Europe experienced from the 14th to the 16th century comes so slowly that it is hardly noticeable when a new social order and mode of production evolves.
Historical Synoptic Perspective of Capitalism vs. Socialism
Why should people vote for Socialist parties after they have proved again and again since the 1980s that they are as neoliberal as the conservative parties rooted in the Reagan-Thatcher ideology? By what right do people vote for Communist candidates after the fall of Communist regimes in the late1980s-early 1990s, and the Chinese Communist Party promoting millionaires and billionaires as the new saviors of society? How dare leftists cling to a discredited ideology associated with disruption, if not destruction of the bourgeois social order in Russia, Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, and Cuba in the 20th century?
The answer for those advocating some version of Marxism rests in the reality that the various political regimes under which capitalism has operated in the past 500 years have always left people aspiring for social justice and the goal of serving the welfare of all people instead of the privileged few, a view that the French bourgeois intellectuals promoted in the 18th century in their struggle against the privileged nobility and upper clergy. The quest for equality and social justice that the social contract must embody is as true and timeless today as when Thomas More wrote Utopia during the transition from the Feudal/Manorial social order/institutional structure to capitalism. Certainly the question of capitalism vs. socialism manifested itself in the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, German Peasants’ War in the 1520s, both long before the bourgeois French Revolution, manifested aspects of Socialism as an alternative.
From the French Revolution of 1789 to the environmental movement of the 21st century, people who believed in some form of Socialism have contributed to worker and child safety, slavery abolition, eight-hour work day, social security, rights of women and minorities, and much more. Above all, socialists of varying types have always struggled to keep bourgeois political parties a bit less hostile to labor, women, and minorities, fighting against tyrannical regimes that used brutal force to repress dissidents demanding human rights, and social justice as was the case with the European Revolutions of 1848 and the nascent American labor movement in the 1880s and 1890s. Socialists envisioning a society rooted in humanist values and not capital accumulation for the tiny minority endeavored to tame the capitalist system from within with reforms and from the outside with protests so that it does not leave as many children and their parents destitute in soup kitchens and in back alleys sleeping in cardboard boxes, especially during hard times of deep recessions.
Despite the fact that wars of imperialism from 1870 to 1914 led to the First World War and Second World War, which was in many respects a continuation of the first; despite the fact that capitalism is predicated on inequality and the state in many countries throughout the world, from 19th century Russia and Mexico to 20th century US has led campaigns against workers through violent means; despite that capitalism keeps promising “the promise land” only to deliver wretchedness for the masses whether in sub-Sahara Africa or rural Mississippi, its apologists continue to eulogize this as the best and only system fit for a decent society. The marketing and selling of capitalism under the neo-liberal panacea was helped enormously by the downfall of Communism, by the US campaign on terrorism that fed the defense industry, and by the idea that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism anywhere in the world, considering that China as part of the global marketplace goes along with international market rules, with the World Bank and the IMF.
Capitalism has prove resilient because it has demonstrated that it can operate under varieties of regimes, from Absolutism in early modern Europe, to parliamentary bourgeois democracy in the 19th century, to Fascism, Nazism, and varieties of authoritarian governments in the 20th century. What all of these regimes have in common is that the role of the state is not to fulfill the social contract as conceived by liberal and democratically-minded political philosophers of the Enlightenment era, but to serve, protect, and strength capitalism and its institutions in their evolving state. Since the late 19th century, finance capital with the backing of the state as an instrument of absorbing capital through the fiscal structure has as its first priority to maintain the hegemony of the markets by allowing them to operate freely during the expansionary cycle of the economy, and providing capital to sustain them amid contracting cycles.
Under such role of the state, socialism is an arch-enemy that capitalism is constantly at war against. In practical terms this means that the enemy of capitalists are the masses aspiring to a social contract that includes them – again, a bourgeois concept that the Enlightenment introduced (Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, What is the Third Estate? 1789), but one that opened the Pandora’s box for mass politics after the European Revolutions of 1848. Does the social contract include only the privileged elites the state represents - before 1789 in France the secular and spiritual nobility, now the capitalists – and are they the nation and embodiment of the national interest, or are all people included in the social contract?
The same strategy the media and politicians adopt to impose conformity on domestic issues also holds true when it comes to foreign affairs. For example, the media and mainstream political and academic establishment present the pacifist dissenter advocating a political solution to US-engendered instability in the Middle East as irrational, unrealistic, unpatriotic and dangerous to national security. Meanwhile, those advocating unilateral or multilateral military intervention are pragmatic voices of reason simply because defense companies make money when government adopts military solutions rather than diplomacy. The reward for the militarist is a high-paying consulting job, chair at one of the various think tanks funded by corporate money, advertisements in the newspaper or TV supporting military solutions, etc. People, especially young college graduates, see who is rewarded and who is left behind in society. Naturally, they follow the pursuit of self interest over what the media describes as idealism that will never make the American Dream a reality. After all, American millionaire dreams are not made by doing or saying, or writing what is in the best interests of all people in society, but only what will retain the privileges of capitalists.
Socialism and capitalism reside under the wing of democracy. Which out the two systems works best and why?
Democracy is a word the ancient Greeks invented to refer to popular sovereignty. However, when the Athenians implemented it into practice (Cleisthenes father of Athenian democracy, 508 B.C.), popular sovereignty was limited to adult males only, to the exclusion of women, foreigners and slaves. When it came to decision-makers, Athenian “radical democracy” (direct vote and participation rather electing representatives) entailed that the individual had to be somewhat well off to have an education so he could actually rise to speak in the assembly to influence the opinion of the rest. In reality, democracy was limited to the properties classes and it was always a struggle between the landowners and the merchants and shipping interests.
In 1689, England took a major step toward representative government with a strong Parliament and weak executive, but the legislative branch was the domain of the landowners, merchants, bankers and shipping interests, to the exclusion of the vast majority. While the American Revolution had a Constitution guaranteeing freedoms and liberties for all, it excluded Native Americans, women, and of course slaves, while the poor farmers and workers were hardly in position to participate and have their voice heard. The French Revolution was the first attempt in Western civilization to introduce popular sovereignty, but it quickly collapsed.
The age of mass politics of the 19th and 20th century in the Western World entailed extending voting rights to people previously marginalized, but the reigns of political power remained with the propertied classes. In short, empirical evidence throughout history does not indicate that democracy was ever a system of government that truly meant popular sovereignty to be all-inclusive and to guarantee social justice. On the contrary, history shows that democracy has been a form of government intended to serve capitalist interests, although there are immense variations between the Norwegian model that takes the working class into account and the American model that is strictly a system limited to the very wealthy with only lifestyle/cultural freedoms extended to the rest of the population.
Socialism is a very broad concept because there varieties of Socialist theories from Christian Socialism rooted in Western tradition that dates back to the Black Death, to Scientific Socialism that Marx and Engels introduced in the Communist Manifesto, coinciding with the Revolutions of 1848. In the age of mass politics, aspects of Socialism have become part of the bourgeois mainstream because the capitalist system could not survive otherwise as John Maynard Keynes realized during the Great Depression. The social fabric could not possibly hold together in the absence of the state intervening much more heavily than it ever had in the economy to absorb surplus capital in private hands, combined with deficit financing and use such resources to stimulate the capitalist economy.
This policy mix that some call “Socialist” emerged from the realization that capitalism left to its own devices would collapse without the state to buttress it. If the state withdraws its support, whether through central bank interest policy making liquidity available for businesses to borrow cheap capital, subsidies of all sorts from export to building infrastructure or facilities, as well as direct bailouts amid recessionary times, then the capitalist system would decline and ultimately fall. The only pillar maintaining it is the state that has been an instrument of redistributing income from the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid up toward the capitalists.
The question is how long can the state remain the pillar of capitalism before collapsing? It could be argued that this could continue another two or three centuries. However, the mounting public debt not just of the US at more than 100% of GDP or of Japan at more than 200% debt to GDP ratio, but also other countries around the world will at some point entail a global crisis of such magnitude that the system will cave in. The combination of public and private debt will reach unsustainable levels to the degree that monetary inflation will reach levels not so different than what people witnessed in the Western Roman Empire during the “Third Century Crisis” that represents the start of a transition toward the Feudal/Manorial social order.
Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire correctly asked the question how did the Roman Empire with the combination of financial, economic, political and military collapse actually survive as long as it did. Nevertheless, the Fall of Rome in the long 5th century did mark social discontinuity. I am convinced that similar patterns with some variations are applicable in the 21st century. The capitalist system will reach a point when it will be unable to operate under a pluralistic bourgeois model that accounts for a thriving middle class and it will only be able to sustain itself under a form of authoritarianism. This is already a reality in a number of countries including the US in 2015 where downward socioeconomic mobility is accompanied by an increasingly corporatist state relying on the military and police-state methods to preserve the dream of an unsustainable and waning Pax Americana.
Predatory capitalists of our time – Barbarians at the gate dressed in expensive suits - will do anything from launder drug money in the billions, promote conflict to sell weapons to governments, manipulate interest rates and currency rates and securities, and payoff government officials for favors, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump candidly admitted. The barbarians in suits that the media and the dominant culture revere and eulogize ad nauseam fear the people, dread popular sovereignty, and detest a social contract and policies that encompasses the interests of all and not just the socioeconomic elites.
All economists know that socialism means the means of production rest with the state on behalf of all people, or common ownership. They may not like state control or they may think it is bad for society because it promotes principles of collectivism instead of individualism, but at least they know the gist of socialism. Economists also know that socialist production is not geared to maximize profits in every sector from luxuries to weapons manufacturing, but to meet human needs. They may detest the idea because they may not believe in egalitarianism, or they may believe this is just a deceptive theory never implemented in practice as preached in writing. Economists also know that the role of the state is catalytic in so far as it determines how to meet the needs of all people collectively and not to permit production, distribution and exchange of everything from the high-end luxury market to weapons and handguns, to Hedge Funds that realize parasitic profits for a few individuals.
It is understandable that economists as apologists of capitalism fear socialism because they fear popular sovereignty. The existing system is predicated on capital accumulation and hegemony of a small percentage of the population that owns most of the wealth. As it undergoes periodic expansionary and contracting cycles more people experience downward mobility. Only state intervention through a policy mix that dilutes free market economics can reverse such a trend, something neoliberals detest and equate with Socialism. Market economists dread any policy mix that suggests the only way to save the political economy and social order is to dilute it.
In the US especially, opposition to Socialism is also a function of historical tradition rooted on the Puritan work ethic and the idea of self-reliance and individual pursuit. Government interfering to provide health and welfare for the poor is an anathema to the “Puritan work ethic” advocates who have no problem when government provides hundreds of billions to bail out banks and insurance companies, guaranteed loans, tax breaks, direct subsidies, lucrative government contracts for everything from sanitation to intelligence outsourcing, etc.
Deregulation under neo-liberalism also means de-unionization of the labor market, canceling workers' rights achieved in the first half of the 20th century, and imposing wages that are as close to subsistence as possible. The rationale is that the US, EU, Japan, etc. must become competitive because China is rapidly out-competing the advanced countries. How do developed countries become competitive? They bring wage levels down so that they can maintain high profits and keep market share. When they speak of 'competitive', they mean lowering wages and benefits and securing tax breaks and subsidies.
In all wars, the arms merchants are propagating conflict, always in the name of security and lofty idealist principles rather than their profits. If Dante lived in the 20th century of mass wars, he would probably have to create a tenth circle of Hell for his Inferno where all arms merchants, arms manufacturers, politicians advocating arms buildup, opportunistic consultants, lobbyists, journalists, and academics advocating militarism whose victims are by far innocent civilians; well-worth the human sacrifice, of course, because the arms industry remains profitable, while the masses continue to believe it is for the sake of freedom, democracy and the welfare of humanity.
Just as developing the agrarian, mining, and manufacturing sectors in the 19th century propelled the US into Great Power status by the outbreak of WWI, unsustainable defense spending has eroded US economic status in the world in the 21st century. Such spending under corporate welfare and neoliberal policies will continue to erode the civilian economy as time passes and the political establishment continues to cater to the defense contractors that so handsomely reward politicians with campaign contributions, military officers with jobs after retirement, and consultants advocating for an even greater defense budget and more militaristic policies. American militarism in itself is not a catalytic dynamic for social discontinuity because capitalism is an international system and it can continue thriving in the rest of the world as it declines in the US. However, the US militarist course will force other countries to continue spending on defense as well and the cumulative effect of eroding the civilian economy on a world scale has a much bigger impact on the mode of production.
Utopian societies do not exist, and at this point in our civilization it appears highly doubtful human beings will ever be able to create a society based on complete equality because elites will always exist in some form. The question is whether a more just society rooted in social justice is even possible. How has humanity come to this point where the quarterly reports of multinational corporations are equated with societal progress? Is it simply because this is what the corporate media, mainstream bourgeois politicians, consultants and academics working for various institutions such as the Brookings Institution, and other organizations all under the corporate purview define as progress and success in civilization? If humanity and civilization have been reduced to econometric models of the IMF and Goldman Sachs that measure the wealth of the wealthy and equate them with human welfare what is humanity’s future and what does this say about our civilization?
In The Poverty of Historicism (1957), Karl Popper denied the Hegelian thesis that there are laws of human history and these are an indicator or predictor of the future. The prophet of modern neo-conservative ideology (combining capitalist economics with imperial-militarist foreign policy), Popper denied the validity of the materialist notion of interpreting history and the class struggle. Advocating a natural order of inequality and perpetual war to strengthen capitalism neo-conservatives following Popper view communitarian ethics and collective welfare as an anathema, asserting the primacy of egoism and self-interest as the ultimate moral principle antithetical to altruism that Socialists advocate.
The extent to which the morality, or more correctly immorality of egoism has been taken can be illustrated by the fact that a number of billionaires and millionaires are spending enormous sums to outfox the aging and even death. Capitalists spend more than $80 billion annually in the anti-aging industry, although there is no proven way at this juncture that human lifespan can be expanded and if so in any form of what we would qualify as “quality of life”.
The natural evolution of capitalism taking its course will simply crumble under its own destructive contradictions and people will remove it because they will have no choice as it will cease to serve society, minus a handful of very wealthy – 80 people currently controlling more wealth than half of the world’s population subsisting at or below poverty levels. Because capitalism is predicated on perpetuating socioeconomic and geographic inequality while promising all people that they too can be the “millionaire next door”, what will happen during the next inevitable deep recession, perhaps depression like the 1930s, when people worldwide demand systemic change and segments of the population engage in various forms of resistance from peaceful to guerrilla warfare?
Will governments acting on behalf of a capitalist system use the armed forces and the police to suppress their own citizens as they have done in the past? Will they opt for “reforming” capitalism so that wealth is not as concentrated but the system survives? Will they resort to a form of dictatorship? This is an inevitable scenario because capitalism is a system operating on expansion and contraction cycles with each cycle imposing downward socioeconomic mobility. The only question is how the political and socioeconomic elites as well as the general population in each country will react to this inevitability.
As Joseph Schumpeter argued in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Socialism will prevail because of “creative destruction” that entails accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism would lead to its demise. How long it would take for Socialism to take hold in society, and how fast and how far it would spread around the world are difficult questions to answer. Nevertheless, neoliberal policies are taking hold around the world and hasting the road to the demise of capitalism and the transition toward a new social order. A new synthesis of Marxism and Existentialism rooted in each country's culture, traditions, and needs of workers and not just the bourgeoisie may produce successful leftist regimes in the future. Socialism in some form, which has been around before civilization, will eventually prevail.