Here I understand Capitalism as the current mode of production where social production is based fundamentally in the exchange of commodities.

From the history of society we can understand one simple truth: Everything is changing. So as with everything, Capitalism must eventually die and be replaced.

Note: I know that one option is that civilization ends before the end of capitalism but I´m asking about the next necessary evolutionary state of society if we ever get there.

What would Capitalism evolve into in the future according to Marxist theories?

  • @NotThatGuy Historical Materialism is totally on the scope of philosophy specially becuase of the ontological implication it gets from Hegelian dialectics. Dec 24, 2023 at 6:47
  • @NotThatGuy I agree that Capitalism is trying to fix some inherent problems but what I am asking is more trascendental than that. I also agree that this evolution will not happen anytime soon but when it happens: what stage could come next? Dec 24, 2023 at 6:49
  • Hard to say... every effort by philosophers, economists, historians to predict the development of society and economy failed. Dec 24, 2023 at 11:24
  • I actually had some thoughts on this at the beginning of the year. Maybe I can try to refresh them. It was sort of about the transition from non-monetary societies to bartering to capitalism, where the exchange value of objects becomes more and more reified until it becomes its own thing: money. I think blockchain and virtual reality in some ways are the next step forward: money is a virtual abstraction on a physical world: but in virtual reality, virtual things are fully real. Some people do work in exchange for money, but financiers manipulate money directly to increase their money. (cont. Dec 29, 2023 at 1:44
  • So that’s kind of the next level up… I was throwing around this term “embedded money”, can try to find my old notes. It’s sort of like money as an implicit object becomes more and more of a primary object. And work fades away and gets replaced with purely financial phenomena, sort of… people interact with money on an extremely high level of abstraction. I see a lot of blockchain stuff to be like this anyway. Dec 29, 2023 at 1:46

4 Answers 4


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

-Buckminster Fuller

Feudalism is considered the previous dominant paradigm, and it didn't dissappear overnight. Wealth and resources used to be overwhelmingly tied to land; and joint-stock companies and trade between continents funded by them, led to a new chief driver of wealth and power.

The bleak answer is that what did most to end Feudalism was, the Black Death. And there are many many reasons why when looking at the storm-clouds on the global horizon, that:

"It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to Capitalism."

-Mark Fisher

Joseph Tainter and his epic work The Collapse of Complex Societies, lays out the case that what we face is far from unusual. Overuse of resources and tragedy of the commons, spiralling inequality without an ethic of service by the wealthy, and the inevitable perturbations that happen to all societies will reach a scale beyond the scope of a societies resources and ability to collaborate and change, to overcome a given challenge. So, most likely the answer is 'rapid simplification': not a replacement by something new, but by something old, and a new Dark Ages. But, setting this possible future aside for the sake of discussion.

It's almost impossible to imagine now, but many of the oldest trade routes were driven by the need for salt. I like the book Turning Oil Into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice for taking a long view of the past, to take an ambitious view of a future where oil and energy in general is just not the world-ordering concern it is now. New materials in wind-turbine blades, solar panels, batteries, and fusion, make it very likely that just like land stopped being a key constraint, so too energy.

Additive manufacturing, often referred to as just '3D printing' but including a wide array of technologies, has the scope to be very disruptive and to democratise and decentralise manufacturing and technology development. Flat-packed cardboard drones used by Ukrainian special forces to strike deep in Russian territory are an interesting example. Metal powder sintered by lasers in a vacuum, are being looked to as critical for making spare parts for off-world colonies and space travel. Though still with plenty to do, the Open Source Ecology project, the Global Village Construction Set points at the direction this could go in, a shift away from previous power and resource bases, comparable to the shift from land-ownership towards trade. If you follow the computer coding world, and it's culture expressed for instance in open source projects and platforms, unconferences, maker-spaces, and new collaborative methodologies that suit such a rapidly changing field, then I think you can get a sense of what's next.

I honestly think the word Capitalism has so much ideological baggage and shoddy analysis attached, that I'd avoid it wherever possible. Be more specific. When you mean economics, or markets, or politics, talk about those in specific terms, rather than lumping together unlike cultures because of a Cold War legacy.

You might like this answer for more specifics on economics and governance: Philosophers on alternatives to capitalism and communism


First, it's worth noting that capitalism (as Marx thought of it) has already largely been replaced by corporatism, both in the sense that the economic world is dominated by corporate (not individual-owned) entities and the political world is increasingly geared towards collective (corporate) interest groups. In fact, in the US context we can think of the entire Trumpist movement as an effort to urn back the clock from modern corporatism to late 19th/early 20th century capitalism (though of course they seem to have no idea that is what they are doing, and focus their hostilities in entirely the wrong directions…).

As to where things go next… The modern means of production is increasingly information-oriented, in the sense that information is (increasingly) the primary commodity exchanged for profit. We can see that in things like computerized stock market manipulations, bitcoin-type money systems, and the rise of AI modeling and predictive systems. I'd speculate that the next system will follow the Uber, Amazon, Google, Apple models: tight, centralized data-mogul groups with a loose, decentralized mass of remote workers dominated by the central groups control of information access. We'll see, I suppose…

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    Sort of like what William Gibson writes about.
    – Scott Rowe
    Dec 25, 2023 at 15:37

As far as I know Marx's answer to that question is simply: "Communism".

The more interesting question would be "What is Communism?" and in that regard Marx showed a profound lack of interest in speculations and instead afaik just postponed the question entirely to when capitalism is overcome. So the Marxist answer to what comes after capitalism, is essentially just "whatever comes after capitalism".

Afai understand it Marx had this idea that the social conditions follow the economic conditions and that progress is achieved by class struggle. So to an extend he took a large gulp from the kool-aid of the liberal narrative of his time and developed that into historic materialism. That is he bought the idea wholesale that the struggling underclass of merchants and craftsmen developed in the shadow of the empire until their own mode of production replaced the current mode of production in a violent revolution.

Which he projected backwards and also forwards in time. The idea being essentially that of leapfrogging. So an upper class dominates an under class but due to the under class doing the effective work and acquiring the skills to be in a position where they actually know better how to run a society, the lower class than uses these skills to advance past the upper class. As a result you have a new upper class and a new under class, but overall the economic and political standards of living have improved (as the new underclass is the former upper class and the new upper class is even better than the one before). Rinse and repeat.

So the logical conclusion that he draws from that is that the new under class the proletariat (workers) would succeed the current upper class the bourgeoisie ("citizens", as at first only the rich enjoyed that status). So idk those who work the engines will acquire the skills how to build them and become engineers themselves being able to build better and more efficient technology and thus again propel society forward to an even less hierarchical and even more advanced society.

Because the trajectory of historic materialism as Marx had drawn it, based on the liberal narrative, was one of progress, from the high gap between master and slave and the large discrepancy of the rule of one over the many, each step (according to the narrative) lead to an increase in capabilities and output as well as a decrease in social discrepancy, with the liberal revolution hailing democracy (with lots of asterisks...) as opposed to aristocracy. So Tyranny -> Monarchy -> Aristocracy -> Democracy (with only the rich being citizens) -> Communism. Which essentially in that progression would be a version of Anarchism, where the need of slaves, masters and any such classes would be obsolete, because the production is enough for everyone so the future of humanity would no longer be dictated by the need for survival but be in the hand of the people themselves who could decide that by themselves how they would like to tackle that, because the discrepancy between classes would have been made obsolete as the discrepancy between upper and under class would be leveled.

Now that was pretty optimistic and he might have given the liberal narrative a lot more credit than it deserved. You could also frame history as continuous exploitation and the narrative of the underclass overthrowing the upper class as a mere coup d'état rather than a revolution in which an already powerful upper class just demanded government privileges and afterwards reigned in pretty much the same fashion as before, just with thematic changes. The advancement from monarchies to aristocracies might have never happened but aristocrats might have invented the role of the monarch to begin with. The ascension of common people to the level of aristocrats might not have been their own merit but a mere necessity of logistics as large empires probably were a nightmare before spreadsheet calculations and speed of light communication. So middle management was needed and had to have some privileges to cope with their responsibilities.

In a sense we might have even regressed in that regard as the lord of a fief was kind of his own boss owning the realm, while the lord to Burger King restaurant might not even own the place and has a lot less to say.

So the change might happen mostly for a middle class while the actual under class might largely stay where they are marginally improving over time or regressing first when times get tough.

Or how change in societal structures might have come as a result of ecological disasters where the previously excluded had to take responsibilities and received powers because there was no one else to do.

There are a lot of narratives that you could construct, that would explain the progression of societies over time. Ironically the capitalist apologists are the once probably most keen on Marx's class struggle leapfrogging idea, just avoiding his name and thinking of it in terms of the individual rather than societies as a whole. Like their idea of a meritocracy is basically that those at the top are at the top because they are the best and if they weren't the best someone would replace them who would be even better. Hence: Progress.

On the other hand the "Marxists" usually found themselves most successful when they were able to promote a utopia to an underclass having hit rock bottom and where they interpreted the class struggle as a fight against an existing class rather than an attempt to leapfrog them before that actual clash. So in a sense that's not really "Marxist" and what they ended up with is often a dropin replacement of the former system with a different narrative or even a regression to a previous system.


According to Hegel's dialectics everything in this world must change into its opposite before it evolves into its next stage. (See Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic) Such is Dialectics. Marx turns Hegelian dialectics on its head to study human history with it: we call that historical materialism (See The Communist Manifesto).

For historical materialism, humanity's history has evolved through 3 stages already: Slave society, feudalism and capitalism. Each of these has had its turn of hegemony in society. Currrently we live in capitalism, a stage where production revolves around the exchange of products. This mode of production will of course die eventually and something else must take its place following the universal law of dialectical movement in reality.

So according to historical materialism: The next historically necessary step of society's evolution is one where all the contradictions in Capitalism will be resolved. This new evolution will be better than capitalism because it will take all the good and dismiss all the bad. Such is the nature of evolution.

To answer: Capitalism will evolve into a better version of itself which would resolve all bad things in it. I would be so radically different, we would just not call it capitalism.

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    That is not how evolution works, humans still have an appendix that even now kills many people & serves no balancing purpose. The Feudalism that Capitalism replaced is still around, it just isn't a dominant economic paradigm. Please try to back your points by referencing literature rather than just giving your opinion, and define contested terms - eg, Capitalism.
    – CriglCragl
    Dec 24, 2023 at 0:10
  • Added references and defined the contested term. Dec 24, 2023 at 2:40
  • @CriglCragl The point is that just as capitalism replaced feudalism as the hegemonical mode of production so will capitalism be replaced with something else. Of course Capitalism might still linger for a while but only as a dying and obsolete feature just like currently feudalism. Dec 24, 2023 at 2:41
  • 'A while' might be what, 300 years? Saudi Arabia still has an absolute monarch, & summary executions by them without right to a jury trial. The Japanese isolationist Sakoku period gave them an extra 265 years of Feudalism, also. You seem to think it's a switch to be flipped, but it won't be.
    – CriglCragl
    Dec 24, 2023 at 14:46

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