The issue of capitalism and its critique and the potential of postcapitalism is conditioned by its own history of bad theories, false models, confusion over economics and the mystification of neo-classical models, with a cult-like domination of Marxist thinking which has severe flaws. As much as one might admire Marx’s efforts, his theories are very flawed and thus the whole basis of a socialist/communist left has all along been based on theoretical confusions. Marx’s ‘stages of production’ theory has surely helped to derail thinking and activism on the left. Any capitalist can safely denounce Marxism as crackpot theory and score a one-up that most cadre cultists can’t answer.
Marx condemned us to an epoch of capitalism that had to exhaust its potential before turning into something else. A disastrous perspective. Capitalism is not an epoch of world history but a process that should have been balanced from the start as Marx/Engels seemed to have understood early on in the 1848 period. The later Marx seems to have changed. Capitalism is strangely fomenting its own demise. Its destruction of the Amazon Basin is surely a turning point. Capitalism is taken as an autonomous system, but should be seen as a process inside a large system. Instead its match with a socialist wrapper never happened. The result is a kind of aborted modernity that never emerged in proper fashion. One problem is the jackknifed opposition of socialism/capitalism where the two might have led to a construct like our ‘democratic market neo-communism’. The latter takes a liberal system and asks, can we make one change: expropriation of capital to a Commons, maintaining the rest, more or less? Why not. Attempts to construct a whole society from scratch is a form of complexity that can lead to Stalinism in the confusion of categories. This approach is not social democracy, as such, but that category done right.
The system of capitalism has become so complex no one can quite visualize its structure.
Try googling “#number of small businesses, US’
The result is a staggering 30.2 million small businesses. The system has expanded to a point where it is a labyrinth. It is not easy to consider changing such a system.
Our model allows an indifference level below which the larger system allows let-go. And the issue of markets has been botched. There is a possibility as many socialists later realized of markets inside a socialist system.
It is no mystery that capitalism is so hard to reckon. The left in fact has no accurate theory or model and the domination of marxism drives out any new paradigms.
So it is not surprising that the left makes little progress. The Second International shows a global movement ruined by the legacy of Bolsheviam, and marxism.
The left rarely disowns this legacy and suffers cognitive dissonance in the usage of its own terminology: does socialism refer to North Korea/ Yes, No. but leftists remain in confusion. You MUST start over with new terminology.
A whole new terminology is needed and a new start. Marx is not a prophet of a world religion, but his thinking is almost impossible to critique. The same mess of pottage is recycled over and over again.
So, there is hardly any mystery to the failures of the left here. Leftists don’t know what they are talking about, apply bad theories to hypercomplex systems, and never learn from their mistakes.
Let us note that social democracy is not good enough. But if revolutions are off the table, then all discussion is on false premises. A century of social democratic efforts seemed to have succeeded but the capitalists dismantled almost all of it.
But we cannot be dogmatic and should take reformism/revolution as an inevitable duality.
But the climate question is going to give the left another chance, and it may be a case of stepping backwards into still more confusion. I would say start over with a simple model of socialism or our toy model of ‘democratic market neo-communism’.
Our approach takes a liberal system and remorphs it into a neo-communism. The two Janus-faced so-called opposites begin to meld into each other. It is easy to critique Bolshevism, but its example is misleading even as it gives a warning; if revolution is essential its execution is perilous. Reformist just might come to cusp where the expropriation of capital could be legislated.
Whether yes, no, maybe or let’s wait and see, an examination of why predictions of capitalism’s demise are thus far off the mark is a healthy exercise. I thus was interested in a new book wrestling with these issues, Foretelling the End of Capitalism: Intellectual Misadventures since Karl Marx by Francesco Boldizzoni. Foretelling is a curious hybrid as the author is quite critical of capitalism but also has a pessimistic outlook regarding its replacement; it is rare for a book to receive praise from a Wall Street Journal reviewer and New Left Review contributor Wolfgang Streeck. Foretelling provides a strong challenge to the thinking of critics of capitalism and those who subscribe to leading theories, particularly Marxist, of the end of capitalism.