I would like to propose a thought experiment in language—I am not sure if this is employing a simile or metaphor or a little of both. What if, when we think, “Capitalism” we also think, “Cannibalism,” creating a poetic equation that looks something like this:
CAPITALISM ≈ CANNIBALISM
And whenever someone propounds the doctrine of “CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM,” we think, “HEALTHY CANCER.” Or,
CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM ≈ HEALTHY CANCER
I would like to play with these equivalances, which admittedly, may be radically unfair—or not—but at the same time, may point to a deeper truth at the pattern level.
After all, in a truly liberal, free-minded society, one would be allowed to identify with and believe in CANNIBALISM, as long as one didn’t actually EAT anybody else—without their consent. Yet in our much more narrow-minded civilization, CANNIBALISM falls well outside of accepted belief and practice.
Can we imagine a future civilization where the concept of CAPITALISM is similarly beyond the pale and almost unthinkable to actually engage in? Could this experiment go viral?
I would also like to make a distinction between CAPITALISM—which I identify essentially as a belief system that reduces all things to their economic value, i.e., to CAPITAL, and whose primary goal is to maximize profits for CAPITALISTS—and a related, but in my estimation healthier and more innocuous concept, which I will call COMMERCE.
I would like to suggest that we can have COMMERCE, including productivity, innovation, and wealth production, within a free/fair market in the service of democratic society—without CAPITALISM—much the same way we can have agriculture, or sex, without slavery.
I submit that CAPITALISM includes the mechanisms of COMMERCE, but that the former is more like a totalizing ideology that barely masks a fundamentally exploitative relationship with other beings, which are reduced to natural resources and labor, while the world is collapsed into a total market and subjected to the requirement of infinite growth in repayment of centralized, fictitious, artificial debt, whereas the latter simply signifies the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services between autonomous, interconnected, mutually regarding agents in a common ecological context.
Can’t we trade and do business, meet individual and collective needs, and even use money to translate between different kinds of value, without commiting to the brute metaphysics implied by CAPITALISM? I would like to suggest that our democracies may fundamentally depend on whether we can decouple them from CAPITALISM without losing the dynamic, creative energies of COMMERCE.
This, perhaps, could make an interesting topic for a term paper. As for how my worldview has changed through this course, I would say that I don’t think it has fundamentally changed, but I feel much more sensitized to the way that binary oppositions (all kinds of either/ors) shape my thinking, and that I feel more attuned to creative opportunities to find new ways of thinking, feeling, and being that are more dialectical, transcendent, and inclusive of polarities, contrasts, and distinctions in a field of possibilities beyond presupposed binary options.
“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin