Problem

Contradictions in capitalist systems


Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Nature:

Advanced capitalism is characterized by contradictions, namely the emergence of conditions -- through the very success of capitalism -- which are fundamentally antagonistic to capitalism itself, intensify with time, and cannot be resolved within the capitalist framework. In short, the development of capitalism produces changes that call into question the social desirability of the drive for profits. Raw capitalism becomes incompatible with the further development of human potential and capacities. Such contradictions include:

  • Capitalism promises to meet basic needs but is increasingly unable to meet that promise, especially in developing countries. By its very nature is creates unequal development and is unable to institute economic reforms that would co-opt burgeoning anti-imperialist struggles for liberation.
  • With continued economic growth, especially in the industrialized world, consumption fades in comparison to other dimensions of well-being, such as the availability of creative and socially useful work and meaningful individual development. But because capitalism must continually expand, the realization of these needs is incompatible with capitalist relations of commodities, production and consumption.
  • Capitalist economic growth becomes increasingly predicated on irrationality and production of waste (eg military expenditure and planned obsolescence of consumer goods), thus exhausting natural resources, threatening the ecological balance and undermining the asset base of industrial productivity.
  • The expansion of capitalist production draws an ever-increasing share of the population within a country into alienating wage and salary work, sensitizing them to the oppressive conditions under which they are being called upon to function.
  • The internationalization of capitalism creates a corresponding world-wide proletariat which becomes progressively sensitized to the way in which the capitalist mode reinforces exploitative relations between countries.
  • Through its increasing need for a more educated labour force, workers become increasingly capable of grasping the essential irrationality of the system, the inequitable distribution of power within it and the associated social division of labour.
  • The rise of capitalism has mirrored a "hollowing out of meaning": Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto that capitalism ‘has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.’
Background:

The idea of the ‘dialectic’ emerged out of 18th-century thought (notably Hegel) as a back-and-forth between opposing aims until the poles are transfigured by the conflict into a new whole, which in turn yields a new struggle of opposites necessitating another struggle ending in another transformation, and so on. For Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the dialectic process had a necessary and desirable end -- socialism -- which would be achieved when the forces of capitalism had exhausted their potential by fusing the economic, cultural, political and social spheres. (‘The bourgeoisie’ (ie capitalists), Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto (1848), ‘creates a world after its own image’.)   Specifically, capitalism would fuse the fragmentary elements of economy and society by means of big enterprise, mass data and centralization to such an extent that the ‘shell’ that had earlier contained private property relations ‘must inevitably decay’ or be removed by ‘artificial means’, ie, revolution.

The Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites arising from the internal contradictions inherent in all events, ideas, and movements.

political and historical events result from the conflict of social forces and are interpretable as a series of contradictions and their solutions. The conflict is believed to be caused by material needs.

‘The bourgeoisie’ (ie capitalists), Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto (1848), ‘creates a world after its own image’.

Following this massive feat of homogenization, Marxist theory asserted, it would no longer be possible to compensate for capitalism’s internal contradictions by adjustments within the system, and these would therefore burst out into the open, an eventuality that would ultimately give rise to socialism.

For Marx, Engels and Lenin, capitalist homogenisation was an undeniably ruthless process, but also necessary as a prerequisite to the socialist dream of achieving true equality, beyond class antagonism.

Before yielding to the longed-for ‘higher social-economic order’, however, capitalism would fuse the fragmentary elements of economy and society by means of big enterprise, mass data and centralisation to such an extent that the ‘shell’ that had earlier contained private property relations ‘must inevitably decay’ or be removed by ‘artificial means’, ie, revolution. Following on the heels of this great capitalist homogenisation, then, would come the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, when the last would be first and the first would be last until there was no more ‘first’ and ‘last’, and true equality was achieved.

Strategies:
Contradicting
Values:
Contradiction
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
29.12.2019 – 02:59 CET