by Laura Potts
On Saturday March 11th, I attended the launch of a fascinating new book from Theory and Practice publishing: ‘The Alternative to Capitalism’ by Adam Buick and John Crump. Many of us feel hostile towards capitalist structures. Being properly informed is vital to structuring our opposition effectively. I can heartily recommend this book as an addition to the education of anyone interested in the possibility of bringing capitalism down. Its content is manageable, it is inclusive not alienating, and most importantly it inspires hope in an alternative society.
The book explains the structure of capitalism, and how it became the dominant structure within society, briefly but with the appropriate level of complexity. The key tenet of Buick and Crump’s contribution on this much-discussed topic is that the notion of separate capitalist structures in different geographical and social areas is only an illusion. As they see it, the globalised economy has completed capitalist hegemony – “There is only one capitalist system and it is worldwide”.
Their exploration of the society that could arise out of the ruins of capitalism is equally in-depth and fascinating. It is a radically socialist vision of the future – a future in which no monetary value is attached to anything, in which all benefit from a more sensitive, grounded, fluid system of supply, demand and trade.
The perennial dissent of younger generations that we’ve gotten used to in the last century is being killed off
But I’m getting ahead of myself – how do we get from a world run on the capitalist model to this ideal future? The book does focus on this transition, in particular making the case that there need not and should not be any midpoint – we must make a direct shift to socialism. This jolting transition requires a great deal of ‘revolutionary enthusiasm’ to drive it. But this passion for the political, this drive to make a better future, is currently lacking in much of society.
As lecturer David Perrin highlighted in the discussion at the book launch, the notion of ‘every man for himself’ that permeates modern society has diminished our propensity for rebellion. Transforming the underlying structures of our world is unimaginable while those people we need to rebel are no longer interested in the social injustices that do not directly affect them. I see this in my own generation – many young people believe that our age group do not have any influence within the political sphere, and not without reason. The perennial dissent of younger generations that we’ve gotten used to in the last century is being killed off by the ever more demanding requirement to be part of the capitalist structure or be left behind. The comfort blanket of the system, paired with the self-defeatist notion of individualism, keeps people just where the overarching power structures of capitalism need them to be.
Previously, I had struggled to see how a generation raised on a paradigm of individualism, personal gain and the importance of capital could be converted to a more progressive, collectivist mindset. This book led me to to see the political significance behind a simple fact: people are a product of their situation. People will be less selfish and more willing to participate for the greater good, on the condition all their own needs are met. And many of the conditions that prevent these needs from being met are within our power to address.
At the launch, as well as discussion on the content of the book, there was some interesting discourse on the role of certain social trends within our current capitalist state. We reflected on the ways in which the arts, especially music, and generational differences seem to mimic the ebb and flow of political and social change under capitalism. However, I was disappointed to see a lack diversity in the room. The topic under discussion was about as far-reaching as they come, touching the experiences of all, and it seems a bit ludicrous for a debate like this to take place amongst such a small and unrepresentative group. Ideas do not develop in a room of others that agree with you.
Many books on capitalism document its mechanisms and effects without offering a positive outlook. This documentation, although vital, does not help us build the forward thinking needed to inspire a generation that change is possible, which is key if environmental catastrophe and other crises are to be halted. Buick and Crump’s work is different – it defies the adage that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, taking a more progress-oriented outlook. The book’s closing lines spark action in the reader, inviting them to entertain the rebellious notion that we can make a better future, and we already know how:
“Only the complete abolition of the market, classes, the state and national frontiers offers hope for the future”
Featured image via Theory and Practice