Understanding Capitalism : Now Everyone Wants To?

Forty years ago I was sitting in a comrade’s cold front room with half a dozen other ‘lefties’ reading together Marx.  A recent convert I was zealously trying to understand Capitalism. Few of my friends saw the point. Surely, they said, the system was delivering the goods, why the anguish? Mainstream thought ignored my zealous, if often thwarted efforts to grapple with ‘the falling rate of profit’ and its like. Equations spun before my eyes. I had failed embarrassingly Maths ‘O’ level three times! And yet this encounter did lift a veil from my dizzy gaze. It revealed the underlying exploitative and oppressive character of Capitalism, however manicured and dressed up. Even if, following Karl himself, I am no longer a Marxist, the breathtaking sweep of his ideas remains ever an inspiration.

Today it’s altogether a different matter. Such is the depth of the present crisis of Capitalism, in its unfettered neo-liberal guise, even the Financial Times accepts the shit has hit the fan. The mainstream acknowledges this. Hence we are seeing all manner of efforts to explain and understand the present predicament. Thus, if you have the time and inclination, find below a sprinkling of interesting links, speculating about Capitalism in the now and hereafter. To think about this is no indulgence. I sit here in a Greek village in a cocoon that is breaking up thread by thread. Ordinary folk, young and old, face the continued imposition of an austerity, which sucks the blood out of any vein of optimism for the future.

Is there such a thing as ethical capitalism?

In response to a growing realisation that neo-liberal capitalism is morally and literally bankrupt, Britain’s political leadership have provided three visions of ethical capitalism for us to aspire to.  So, is there such a thing as ethical capitalism? And why is this question being asked now?


Half a century ago, any economist — or for that matter any undergraduate who had read Paul Samuelson’s textbook “Economics” — could have told you that austerity in the face of depression was a very bad idea. But policy makers, pundits and, I’m sorry to say, many economists decided, largely for political reasons, to forget what they used to know. And millions of workers are paying the price for their wilful amnesia.

Is Capitalism on Trial?

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” Frank Luntz, an influential GOP pollster and strategist, warned the Republican Governors Association at a meeting in Florida last month, referring to the Occupy movement. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.

And to return to Paul Mason’s controversial and rewarding reflections on the crisis and resistance to its consequences, here are both sections of an interview, How Protest Changed the Debate.

Part One and Part Two

I’m optimistic.  When I say optimistic, it’s not optimistic because a bunch of students went on the streets in 2010 or because there’s a lot of radical graffiti on the walls of Cairo.  I’m optimistic because I think – and call me a technological determinist if you want – I think technology is empowering the human being; that’s the source of the optimism.  Technology empowers the human being, it empowers them to recognize bullshit a lot earlier and quicker than my generation did at college, and it allows for more diversity of answer.

And as a counter and supplement, Kicking of is a Feminist Issue, by Emma Dowling.

I wouldn’t say that I have a 10-point plan about what women should be doing, but I would say we are part of the movement that needs to have precisely these conversations about what situation do we find ourselves in? What is my situation as a woman working in a university? And how does that relate to the situation of a woman working in the hospitality industry, for example? What brings us together and what keeps us apart? What is our common conversation, and what is our common struggle? And it’s those conversations that I think are really important, because they’re conversations that can also lead to collective action. So it’s connecting up the dots, and also recognising these class stratifications. Only in the conversation, I think, can we actually find the solidarities and the collective processes and action that we need to happen.

As for what this has to do with youth work, one can only despair at those, who embrace the Coalition’s superficial portrayal  of the dilemmas facing us and its behavioural focus on ‘problem families and youth’, the evident root of all our ills, together with its ideological assault on the very notion of  a collective concern for each other, that owes nothing to financial reward.


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