Issues of Capitalist Fundamentalism

Nietzsche’s famous invocation “God is dead” was meant to hail in the idea that the one truth of Christianity no longer made sense. That the order of society would be reborn into many different conceptions, with the Ubermensch leading toward different ideas and orders. While Nietzsche saw this as breaking away from the herd, I see it rather as resilience against a domineering power structure that aims to denigrate and suppress the urges of individualism and voluntary collectivism, and instead move toward the reformation of old ideas with the creation of new ones.

However, Nietzsche failed to foresee the coming tide of capitalism in all its false glory. The proclamation of the one truth remained, moving from the social to the economic. God isn’t dead, he’s simply transformed. That one truth finds itself imbedded in capital markets, with the concept of the entrepreneur being the new prophet, and the profit motive taking the place of religious doctrines. This is regularly termed market fundamentalism, but I believe characterising the market as limited to the vulgarities of capitalism is wrong. The market itself is simply a conception of socio-economic organisation which happens to have been limited by the creation of new power relations that have been received from the seigneurship of feudalism and led toward the creation of a bureaucratic state whose aim is to facilitate growth and maintain the desires of vested interests. In a similar vein, the elites of socialist countries co-opted the ideas of communism and socialism so as to maintain the state and an artificial elite.

Thus the issue is the state and capitalism, the two sides of a similar coin. The ideologues and power-holders that rely on this system reproduce its fundamentalist narrative. Maintained are the concepts of pure profit, entrepreneurship and the functioning’s of a ‘market’. However, when we examine the actualities of this, we see very little in the way of reality. The concept of profit is simply that of surplus value extraction. During the Industrial Revolution, it meant the imbedding of the social division of labour into work, thus creating a system of minimal value produced by an individual worker, but maximum value extracted by the capitalist who controls the production line. Now profit takes on a more implicit role. Not only are the industrial relations of the 19th century maintained, this time with small job-shops in East and Central Asia, but a significant proportion of profit is developed from the control of knowledge production via patents and copyrights. The innate intellectual capital of those who actually produce and conceptualise a product or idea is extracted by those who have the means to pay for it i.e. the owners and controllers of capital.

Similarly, the entrepreneur is put on the same pedestal, being seen as the guiding light who uses his dispersed knowledge as well as the dispersed knowledge of those who work with or for him to create new commodities which lead the world forward. However, the modern entrepreneur is almost pure propaganda. As Pat Devine has noted, a modern entrepreneur is simply someone who owns or controls wealth and can maintain government patronage. Someone like Steve Jobs or Donald Trump. These people really don’t rely on pure entrepreneurial ability, because if they had they would’ve made at most a small fortune and wouldn’t be able to produce the sort of nonsense they still do. Would Apple be able to produce the same sort of phone with the same inbuilt obsolescence if they didn’t have government patronage which creates high overhead costs for would be innovators and entry barriers which restricts access to markets. In fact, the only free markets (by this I mean ones where government doesn’t have a significant grasp other than having helped create it) are capital markets, which are only possible due to government regulation constricting what types of capital are important and who has access to it. Real entrepreneurship/innovation would be developed more so by communities, adhoc democratic groups and individuals who simply had an idea.

This is a false god that has not died. Rather it has taken over the religious and feudal elites of old, using the tools of education and economic control to create a new, fluid elite who in many ways have superseded the state, taking on an international character. Capital has become international all due to the original privilege of government intervention. As a result the one truth, that of economic growth, profiteering and reliance on capital-backed entrepreneurs, is developed and continued. Even with shocks like the Great Depression and the Great Recession it is not killed, rather it takes on a different character. After World War II, capital internationalised and took over European and Japanese markets. In the 1980s, pure financial capital was unlocked and allowed to wreak havoc through malinvestment and the creation of massive indebtedness (which if you were a corporation or bank, you could simply have written off through securitisation or central bank bailouts).

No matter the situation, the one truth of capitalism continues. It even creates its own opposition. During the development of the Soviet Union, there was a belief that industrialisation and the creation of new elites and hierarchies was needed to keep up with capitalist nations. Rather than transforming society, it was recreated through brutality. The only difference was the name to describe it. Even libertarians fall into the trap of capitalist fundamentalism, idolising the entrepreneur and praising the economic values of profit and value extraction. You get justifications for large corporations and capitalist investors from people who call themselves anarchists. This is done without irony. The one truth stands as a result of self-replication. It uses the state as a tool and relies on ideologues and educators to recreate itself. But there is cause for optimism.

If god is not dead, he is dying. The continuation of capitalism continues to look bleak. In its place there are many new conceptions of society. These include local economies of scale, decentralised planning structures and markets co-opted away from the profit motive. But to truly end capitalism, you have to unlock capital. Capital as a class relies on state privilege and regulatory barriers. You get rid of those, you get rid of capitalism. There are two ways to do this. First, delegitimise the state through political activity. Make alliances with anti-statist and anti-capitalist groups and create pan-anarchist alternative societies and communities. Second, create counter-economic institutions. If you allow individuals to act on their dispersed knowledge, you have local production of commodities and wealth. You get collective ownership, short-term profits and long-term community development. You get radically different socio-economic systems such as planned economies, gift economies, direct democracy and decentralised markets. The whole idea of value changes from pure profit to combinations of profit and sociality, or ethical economic activity. Collective, voluntary action becomes much more likely and developmentally easier. Genuine libertarians and anarchists should be fighting for this future. The development of an Ubermensch can only occur when individuals are empowered without the barriers of government or capitalism. These false gods are dying, so let us make sure they die.


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