3

Philosopher Karl Marx envisioned an economic system called communism to fight the abuses suffered by working class people during the industrial era. The exploration of man by man and the excessive power given to a few wealthy aristocrats and the commercialization of human ethics and moral values were the reasons to try new socialist formulas. The reason(s) why communism failed or even if real communism has ever been realised in practice is still debatable then again communist regimes are nearly extinct all over the world.

The predicted consequences of capitalism are beginning to be felt today more than ever in the "fake news" era. The business justice, mass-media, politics(lobbying), education, health, prisons, spirituality, war even truth and democracy itself have turn governments into plutocracies and have limited people's equal rights.

Even though technology has been improving since Adam Smith it seems to take away more jobs than it creates; and some companies outsource in third world countries(sweatshops) to reduce production expenses. Governments seem to have problems predicting economic crisis ex. (2007-2008) and some believe that eventually one of catastrophic proportions could happen (a system based on perpetual debt depending on economic growth to counter-effect inflation in a world of limited resources cannot go on forever).

Why don't economists talk about new alternative formulas to communism and capitalism on mainstream media? Governments can nuke the world several times, put a man on the moon, decode the DNA etc but it is not possible to create a better, fairer and more sustainable economic system? What explains this lack of imagination? Is there an interest by a privileged elite to keep these topics mute. It's well known than in some countries such us USA socialist ideas have been demonized ref here and illegally prosecuted for decades but how about the rest of the world? In this very country the social inequity has sky rocketed ref here then again in their Hollywood propaganda not even sci-fi! you can see the possibility of new or better economic formulas being used eg Distributism, Georgism,etc). I'm looking for books and authors who ponder on these topics.

"No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable" Adam Smith

  • 1
    See Corporatism with Ferdinand Tönnies and maybe also Georges Sorel. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 13 '19 at 11:35
  • 1
    'Socialism' slips in as a third term. Do you use it interchangeably with 'communism'? – Geoffrey Thomas Sep 13 '19 at 13:41
  • 1
    Btw I strongly support CASSE. Essentially a “no-Growth” plan. Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. I don’t really like the opening scene in their new website. We have to hope for something. But in reality, I suspect brute power will increasingly be employed to maintain financial markets (trading, exchanges) since the nature of the business is to puff prices and this depends on “growth” in GDP. – Gordon Sep 13 '19 at 15:16
  • 1
    Books: Daly, Herman. 1997. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts ; Daly, Herman. 1991. Steady-State Economics, 2nd edition. Island Press, Washington, DC. ; Brian Czech, Supply Shock (2013) newsociety.com/Books/S/Supply-Shock-PDF We are now past typical capitalism and classical Marxism since these are growth models. – Gordon Sep 13 '19 at 17:24
  • Feudalism seems like an excellent third way of running things, recursively passing responsibility to the next lower level. It's almost certain to fail Adam Smith's "poor and miserable" criterion though. – Ray Butterworth Sep 16 '19 at 1:13
1

I pursued the question of alternatives to capitalism and SOCIALISM on a political forum, and the general consensus was those are all we have to work with. In a later, unrelated discussion, someone announced a new thing called "post-capitalism."

There are several books about post capitalism, including Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason. I haven't had a chance to read any of these books yet. But, based on what I've learned about post capitalism, I think it's essentially a con game. It might work great on Mars, but some of the things I've read were so divorced from reality, I've tentatively classified post capitalism as nothing but a propaganda stunt.

Nevertheless, it's worth checking out.

Why don't economists talk about new alternative formulas to communism and capitalism on mainstream media?

The mainstream media are pretty much controlled by people firmly committed to capitalism. Some of the most powerful people in the world are economists - especially Harvard-educated economists. These are the "experts" the media like to quote.

Anyone who embraces socialism will likely be demonized. Look at the way the media treated Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Muammar Gaddafi. Look at what happened to Salvador Allende and Patrice Lumumba. The capitalist gatekeepers don't play games.


Getting to the root of your question, the problem may be our desire to find an economic system that somehow works in an ethical manner by default. But we can think of economic systems as tools, similar to hammers and axes. Like hammers, economic systems are neither "good" nor "evil." It's the people who control an economic system (or government) that makes is good or bad in our eyes.

Another thing to think about: We're conditioned to thinking of capitalism and socialism (particularly communism) as two distinct entities. I prefer to think of them as end points on a continuum. The goal is to find a happy balance that works for a particular country.

But even a "good economy" doesn't guarantee an ethical society. I would argue that people need to have ethical standards that they inject into government and economic systems.


There are countless books about capitalism, socialism, economic ethics, environmental ethics, etc. However, you have to scrutinize the authors - as in doing some research on them. I would be very skeptical of any book on economics associated with Harvard or reviewed in the New York Times. I'll pass on Paul Mason -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Mason_(journalist)

The sheer number of books such as you describe, combined with the difficulty in separating the good ones from the propaganda mill, makes it difficult to compile a list of recommended titles. Any titles I list will be attacked by right-wingers and vice versa.

The Tragedy of the Commons is a classic you're probably already aware of. (It was inspired by an essay, not a book.) -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

Finally, have you read Muammar Gaddafi's The Green Book?

Gaddafi wasn't really known as a philosopher, but I think he can hold his own with Ayn Rand (author of the capitalist classic Atlas Shrugged). ;)

| improve this answer | |
  • Regarding the continuum I mentioned, consider the term "mixed economy" - sort of a combination of capitalism and socialism. It was working very well in Latin America (where it was dubbed "the pink tide") until the capitalist powers began undermining countries that had swung too far to the Left for their liking. At least one left-leaning leader, Bolivia's Evo Morales, is known for his embrace of environmental ethics. – David Blomstrom Sep 15 '19 at 22:37
  • This seems like a viewpoint from the US, which is all fine because of the American hegemony, but in Sweden, and in northern Europe in general, the dominating attitude is to be critical of capitalism. Being pro-capitalism is sort of an ugly stance because of the zeitgeist of marginal groups and oppression and whatnot. However, I think it is still valid to say that no one is properly against capitalism, like every critique of capitalism is made with an implicit defense of remaining capitalistic. In that sense, Europe is almost more sinister as it believes itself to be a socialism. – Panda Sep 16 '19 at 10:12
  • "This viewpoint from the US." Uh, I don't think there are many U.S. citizens who would say a kind word about Gaddafi. My knee-jerk reaction to capitalism is disgust. But, like I said, I view economic systems as tools that are neither good nor evil. But I think the "free market capitalism" practiced by the U.S. is killing us. – David Blomstrom Sep 16 '19 at 17:22
  • Ah, I'm afraid you misunderstood me. I mean that you're describing from an American standpoint, not that it is the American majority. My counterpoint is that there is a converse attitude in Northern Europe, perhaps more aligned with your views. – Panda Sep 16 '19 at 17:48
  • Ah, I see. I think socialism is more popular in Europe. – David Blomstrom Sep 16 '19 at 18:22
3

The first obvious alternative to Communism comes from the split in the first international between Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, the latter being so critical of Marx's 'authoritarian socialism' that he got expelled by Marx. Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon were the first serious anarchist theorists.

If you want particularly zany options, you may wish to read Gaddafi's 'Third Universal Theory' found in his little 'Green Book'. Another unusual one is Howard Scott, who created the 'Technocracy Movement', which was briefly popular in 1930s America.

And if you want the most extreme example of unusual thinking, perhaps there's no more morbid than Pentti Linkola, who advocates massive human population decline through voluntary or genocidal means under an ecological dictatorship.

As for why there is such a dearth of political imagination, this seems because many events in the last century have caused crisis of faith with so many institutions and ideologies that it has produced an unfortunate nihilistic malaise (I'm citing an answer I did about nihilism here because it's quite a big answer in itself).

Add to this the fact American media dominates the world, and many Americans believe themselves the final state of humanity. At least, if they didn't, there would never have been essays like 'The End of History' after the collapse of the USSR.

| improve this answer | |
2

I recommend Rajani (Kannepalli) Kanth but with some caveats/reservations. But before that...

The Universe is made of stories, not atoms. Throughout history one collective narrative after another has worn thin, then to be replaced by another. We’re humans; that’s what we do
Muriel Rukeyser/George Monbiot

Communism is a story, capitalism another.

And as George Monbiot says if we don't like a story we need a better story not more munged/minced facts and figures.

Rajani Kanth tells his story with passion and conviction... So much passion in fact that it's off-putting to some. See this exchange due to an unwitting oversight on my part.

Hence I thought I'd write this as an answer (rather than just comment) in order to show Kanth in clearer light than he does.

Rajani Kanth can be summarized to 3 themes

  1. Eurocentricism ✘
  2. Modernism ✘
  3. Feminism ✔

Kanth makes a punchy 45 theses whose culmination is

Modernism is the emergent contemporary reality of a Casino Economy, a Video Culture, and a Techno-Fascist Polity.

My main point in writing this post is to adjust Kanth as:

  1. Anti-Eurocentricism ✘
  2. Anti-Modernism ✔
  3. Pro-Feminism ✘

ie discount his anti-Eurocentric diatribes, de-emphasise his pro-feminism and read him as a sharp analyser and trenchant critic of modernity. Personally I think the more accurate word is modernity over modernism but I'll stay with Kanth's terminology.

Anti-doting Anti-Eurocentricism

People today understand that hating a skin colour is wrong. But it's more than wrong; it's illogical. You can hate a murderer you cant hate a tsunami because there's no one there behind it. Likewise you can't hate a skin colour including whiteness/European-ness. And so when kanth says

Thesis 6 Modernism, was first erected in Europe, whence its synonymity with Eurocentrism, on the Metaphysical Triad of:

(a) a near blind “Faith” in Science
(b) a self-serving Triumphalist, Belief in Progress
(c) a Philosophy of rampant Materialism
[a Fourth Adjunct would be the readiness to deploy illimitable Statist Violence to achieve Policy Ends: to cite even the great Libertarian, J. S. Mill, it’s quite right to “ force people to be free”].

we can hear it as a scathing criticism of modernism without fundamentalizing incidentality of history: eg Every sufficiently powerful country, Asian as much as anywhere else, has a history of oppression and abuse. Likewise

Modernist Nation-States [constructed on the notion of bellum omnia contra omnes], much as Civil Society, are imposed, Inauthentic Entities, uniquely European in provenance, and devoid of Anthropic Meaning, that serve only to deceive and/or Alienate the Subject Orders: they neither correspond to, nor serve, our Real Anthropic Needs/Natures.

...remains as forceful and more universally true if the broadside against "European" is broadened to 21st century nation-states generally.

Toning down the feminism

In the western part of India — Bengal, Assam — goddess worship is deeply embedded for generations, centuries. So leaving aside Abrahamic backgrounds, even by oriental, Indian standards people who hail from those backgrounds have an innate profound sense of the feminine. So in

Principle 1. We are, contrary to the ruling precepts of Judeo-Christian Ideology, Self-realized, and Self-realizing, Animals at all times: notions of Progress and Regress, thereby, carry no valency [except as purely arbitrary constructions].

[Among animals we are hominids and among hominids....]

Theorem# A: Men and Women constitute Two Distinct Sub-Species, occupying differing Ontic and Epistemic Spaces.Their respective “Cluster of Traits,” I title the Paradigm of Masculinity and the Paradigm of Feminity:

Men are endowed with the Instinct to Kill, Women with the Instinct to Nurture, quite regardless of Culturally specified Roles and Responsibilities that mediate such Drives.

Now if this seems too hopeless to accept as fact notice that later...

  1. As Hominids, i.e., as Mammals, it is not Liberty and Equality we seek, but Care, Reciprocity, Consideration, Nurturance, and Warmth

In effect the feminine so-called aspect is what we all seek and is not about sex/gender etc but rather a pan-cultural yearning for androgynous wholeness.

With this much caveat and correction I believe anyone wishing to find a way beyond the left-right divide will find the study Rajani Kanth fruitful. I'd start with the 45 theses but there's always google/youtube.

And hope you do not let go this questionleft wing right wing samebird

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    Does he count as a philosophy though? I just can't see any kind of reasoning in what he's doing. – Daniel Prendergast Sep 15 '19 at 18:40
1

There is an alternative to capitalism and communism that can be adopted by people. People need to whole heartedly contribute to it and be part of it. It is called PROUT (Progressive Utilization theory).

In capitalism, gap between rich and poor is increasing as maximum profit is kept by owners. In communism, state is owner of the property and humans are not rewarded suitably. PROUT suggests there should be a ratio between rich and poor income say may be 1:10. This will motivative innovation and creativity as deserving people will earn more.

But physical resources are limited and keeping a check on max income will lead to distributon of wealth in rational way. Communism hinders creativity and innovation because there is no motivation of more income.

There are many good features of PROUT like production for consumption. In current pattern, we keep investing in something which is more profitable like building houses or subprime mortgage loans. But PROUT suggests producing only as per requriement. there should be coordinated cooperation amongst various states and provinces to judge demand and produce accordingly.

It promotes worker owned cooperatives such that wealth is distributed amongst more owners. For more details on PROUT, you can check proutglobe.org.

| improve this answer | |
1

I think what people mean by this dichotomy is, state control, vs markets. Even North Korea arguably the world's 'most' communist state ever, now allows some entrepreneurship. Cuba had a thaw towards small businesses but is more mixed. And I hardly need to mention that China is open to world markets, although their insistence that any company be majority Chinese owned, and threat to their citizens of unlimited detention without trial gives the Chinese state almost unlimited influence on their companies in practice - and has led to them demanding effective total state control over strategically important companies like Hui Wei, causing trade & diplomatic schisms most notably with USA & Canada (& there are wider issues about intellectual property, but that's a huge topic in it's own right).

It is common to describe these adoptions of mixed economies as communism 'failing', or no longer existing in practice. That is a mistake, and is a-historical. The converse parallel is state ownership of industries and nationalised healthcare in European countries, which mix more socialist strategies into their capitalist economies (look at Iceland's refusal to bail out banks, in the name of enforcing fairness, vs UK taking state ownership of banks supposedly in defence of capitalism). In actual practice every country, even the 'uber-capitalist' USA has a mixed economy, with aspects of state control, eg ownership of roads, the military(I have had people say all militaries are centralised by default, compare feudal levies, British state-sanctioned freebooter pirates, and East India Company troops); AND markets, eg market traders (there is analysis out there of the substantial role of black & grey informal markets in the USSR, which may not have been legal but were impactful & largely tolerated).

The supposed absolute dichotomy between capitalist states and communist states is totally a product of the Cold War, and the terms are really used to mean, NATO members or aligned, and Warsaw Pact members or aligned. This lives on in our language as the zombie concept 'the Third World' originally coined by analogy to the French 'Third Estate', their proletariat. People using Third World invariably don't realise Second World doesn't mean developing economies, it means allied with the USSR. The realpolitik of the Cold War forced developing economies to pick sides, and to shape their policies accordingly.

For wealthy highly educated Western European countries which tolerated protests and unions, alignment & realignment largely turned out well. For South American countries subject to the Wolfowitz doctrine of unlimited US interference, and African countries, this worked out as a half century of military coups, mass graves, and funding death squads to execute leaders showing any interest in serving their people. The low point in US foreign policy has to be the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan, where the CIA created a slush fund to arm insurgents by tolerating the trade that caused the US crack epidemic, because the leadership of the CIA were racist enough to consider sacrifice of overwhelmingly black inner cities tolerable, even desirable (Johann Hari's 'Chasing The Scream' is great on the motivation & consequences of US-led substance prohibitions).

Lastly in the scene setting, I would point out that Marx cannot be allowed uncriticised to say socialism is a stepping stone leading inevitably towards communism. This is like Nazi's choosing to be called 'National Socialists', or North Korea being 'The Democratic People's Republic'. Socialism predates Marx (in fact, so do forms of communism, like the Diggers), and it was already leading to successful reforms in Marx's time. Attention should be drawn to the fact, that although capitalism is called ideological, communism has been much more so, that is: ideas-led, essentially - utopian. Compelling analysis suggests it was actually this disposition of the Eastern Block to see an 'end of history' that saw the end of the Cold War with a substitution of the future communist utopia, with a hoped for liberal democratic utopia a la Fukiyama's analysis (and fed by the USA pumping money into strategic opponents like West Germany). In countries with weak institutions, like Russia, the change largely did not generate improvements, or even anything more than superficial change.

So, texts. I would start with anthropologist David Graeber's 'Debt: The First 5000 Years'. This makes the case that currency has always been founded, fundamentally, in reciprocal social obligations. He highlights periodic crisees requiring debt forgiveness. And draws attention to a pendulum swing between fiat currencies and intrinsic-value currencies, pointing out blockchain sees us returning to the latter, and the implicit problems we may be in for there. I see the understanding of wealth and trade as the accumulation of relationships of mutual benefit as a key point. You can see him take possibly the longest view of any of these authors here in his analysis of Madagascar and indigenous cultures more generally. In the same area, Joseph Tainter's 'The Collapse of Complex Societies' looks at how solving social/economic problems involves creating greater social complexity, and that has real costs, and finite capacity to do it may lead to 'rapid simplification', or, civilisational collapse. That has to be tempered by how global trade can be shown to be driven by development, maturity and decay of new technologies, though increasing numbers of sceptics doubt our ability to innovate our way out of existential threats like climate change.

It is a widespread view that historically only war epidemics and crisees have generated increases in equality, otherwise it has only been a matter of how much hold on these gains in maintained, and their erosion until new crisees are triggered. This inability to reform without crisis is hugely wasteful & counterproductive, but it does point to how ecologies of ideas before a crisis often get selected from at those moments, like Cuba's 'Special Period' and their food production autarky, or British Chartists and the right to affordable land to grow food, and parallel Russian granting of dachas. New York has the 596 Acres project. I would argue these cultural more than economic systems and institutions provide a significant bulwark against the damages of 'rapid simplification', as reservoirs of skills, and social network/hubs. I would point to an analogy with the evolutionary biology concept of punctuated equilibria.

Next I'd point to Wilkinson & Pickett's books 'The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better' & 'The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone's Well-Being'. These use data on the consequences of inequality for wellbeing, and social cohesion, to draw conclusions about the biology and psychology of economics. I would add in the same area Kahneman's 'Thinking Fast & Slow' even though it's not an economics text, he did win the Nobel Prize for Economics for his work on psychology of judgment and decision-making, largely what is in this book. I also really like this article which identifies loss of emergent 'metis' or tactics for easing social stresses to rapid social change, as the driver of social decohesion. And more broadly Durkheim's analysis of (eg The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, see discussion of here) the formation of moral communities based on holding 'sacred' or inviolable values the dissolution of which tends to dissolve their communities (eg habeus corpus, free speech, right to assembly). Hari's 'Lost Connections' covers parallel ground to both, imho.

Kate Raworth in 'Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist' seeks to reframe economics, especially the idea economies are separate from the societies they belong too, and to analyse how traditional economic thinking has led us astray, especially as regards natural resources and the tragedy of the commons. It's important to note the idea of 'steady state economics', a reform aimed at adjusting to acknowledgement of non-renewable resources, and to populations remaining stable or dropping as they are nearly everywhere except Subsaharan Africa - which is likely to see a major part of the next century's economic shift, and either a huge powershift, or massive proxy wars between current powers. Thomas Piketty's work, especially 'Capital In The 21st Century', also takes the long view of economics to reframe our understanding.

These writers are all considered left wing, though for me their virtue is evidenced-based policy development. I also want to highlight basically everything by Jonathan Haidt, considered to be a rightwing thinker. His analysis of the broader moral matrix and moral palette in relation to recent success of rightwing polutics to my mind echoes the above thinkers, and I'd piont to Tony Blair's overt monarchism and seizing of the cultural moment when Diana died, vs Corbyn's unwillingness to sing the national anthem, as examples of the source of their relative appeal to working class voters. The dynamic of educated middle classes being ready to rely on a state they feel ready to influence, vs working class reliance on family and community they feel are their only real sources of support in crisis, is a major driver of left vs right politics, loss of working class votes by the left, and rise in rightwing nationalism, globally.

Haidt evidences another source of cultural difference, between largely agrarian cultures who have to sow & harvest together like rice-growing China Korea Vietnam and Japan with ethics focused on trustworthiness, and herder cultures who could lose all wealth in a single raid and with focus on honour and ability to threaten feuds, like Mongolia & the Middle East. It is notable that Mesopotemia, Mayan culture, and Europe had a very integrated mix of farming styles, and cultures. A legacy of these varying cultures can be seen in 'cowboy culture' in Argentina, Southern Brazil & Texas, vs grain growing Canada, or arguably 'too-cohesive' rice-growing Thailand. There is a phenomenon of increased geographical sorting by politics globally, magnifying the urban-rural divide, which was a major source of the tension that led to the US Civil War, & is fueling polarisation there again. This will likely be the major dynamic of the future century, with the threshold of 50% of global population moving to cities in our lifetime, and that trend only set to dramatically increase - it's currently 68%. I like Joe Walston's analysis of how to positively reduce global peak population, meet our ethical obligations to poor people around the world, and have the best influence on environmental and biodiversity impacts, through fostering development of healthy effective cities, and the demographic transition we have moral obligations to support and he argues is inevitable without worse consequences.

Lastly I draw your attention to this interview with futurologist Cory Doctorow on Mindscape podcast, where he compellingly makes the case that powerful effective state oversight of markets, especially anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws are key to long term economic success, and that lack of public trust in this fuels conspiracy thinking. Conspiracy thinking having real-world consequences is far from new, and when we recognise this we see many aspects of the formation of effective modern states depend on addressing the causes of this. We look at China's food scandals, but UK food laws were pushed by the bones of cholera victims being dug up from a burial pit and ground up to adulterate flour. UK health & safety law was pushed by the match industry's unwillingness to go from yellow to red sulphur because of a tiny difference in cost, even though yellow sulphur killed employees and red did not. Sadly legislation is typically only reformed in the face of scandal, collapse, and mass deaths - just like epidemic preparedness will only now be reformed. I add the caveat that state-controlled economies are generally even worse at this, Foxconn only reformed unfair pay rules and horrific conditions in the face of mass-suicides - and seemed to focus more on suicide nets than those changes. The British state went through it's industrial revolution as an authoritarian centralised state slow to act on issues like child labour also, though. And in the US, a few hugely dominant companies are suppressing the Silicon Valley innovation ecology by destroying copying or buying any challenger. I would point to governance for business ecologies, rather than by blanket appeal to ideologies - especially the fine grained data-driven impacts of government policy. Nowhere is that more dramatically illustrated than by the global failure to tax the most profitable companies in the world, this is driving inequalities and instability. We can see it magnifying instability in the current epidemic, where capacity for capital flight leads to the I think valid criticism that 'a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere'. Cyprus, & India, have taken tough action on this. Blockchain currencies will make it harder to do.

Definitions of capitalism, communism, and socialism as used now are largely incoherent and formulated as pejoratives, with ideological motivations behind that on all sides. So, focus on state ownership, state control, state oversight, effective institutions, separation of powers (especially judicial from executive). Reform has always had better impacts than revolution, if there is an active civil society developing and proposing policy ideas, and enough social mobility in the face of crisees to get some implemented. Effective strategy for positive change has to be as much social as political, and we should focus on preventing erosion and slow cultivation of rights in good times, and dynamic abd vision led policy development for times of crisis, which may become the almost permanent state of our near-future. Historical economics has been based on ideas like independent rational agents only very recently being questioned in academia, by the likes of The Post Crash Economics Society and Jonathan Haidt-led The Heterodox Academy. The failure of economic theory to predict or explain the 2008 crash will hopefully prove a key moment of change of and regrowth of, economic thinking from more fundamental principles. It has to be a crucial priority to move towards evidenced based policy and away from tribal-based values-led policy, though to do that we need powerful narratives that point towards strengthening rather than eroding existing bonds, sources of cohesion, and moral communities within our societies.

Apologies for not being more concise, this is by far my longest post on here. Well done anyone who made it through! Feedback will be gratefully received.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy