What Happens After Capitalism?

July 24, 2012
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The text below is my response to a question, “What happens after Capitalism?”, asked on Quora.com.

Capitalism will probably always exist as long as people will exist, simply because our whole economic welfare is intrinsically connected to it in one way or form. Capitalism, as we know it, can be defined in macro and micro levels, which means at governmental and social levels, respectively. Communism didn’t work, because no matter how well-meaning its concept is, 1) people want to see the benefit of their input, and 2) the control-levels of a communist system are too demanding. This first explains why even China is moving towards a Capitalist system and the latter explains why Communist countries aren’t democratic.

I have lived in the Netherlands for a good part of my life (25 years), and notwithstanding its shortcomings, Socialism has a fairly successful history in Europe. But it doesn’t replace Capitalism; it is a temporary solution, a fairly honest middle-ground for Communism and Capitalism. As a matter of fact, a confluence of Socialism and Capitalism is known as Social Capitalism, and I think it is because Communism is almost dead and Socialism is thriving, and tilting towards Capitalism. I understand that the root of the word Socialism is “Social”, and it may create a psychological barrier for people to accept it, simply because of their political bias/preferences, and I admit that at the root of that system is a socialist concept. But… Social Capitalism seems to be working (for now) in Europe – and it is also working in USA, without the GOP admitting. Why do I say so? Well, simply put, for example, common people want to enjoy all the socialist goodies: free education, free parks, subsidized (preferably free) transportation; subsidized housing, etc. And on the other hand, we want to believe we live in a meritocracy where we are rewarded for our individual work, intellect and/or effort.

Now, on the micro-level, there is the concept of Creating Shared Value, a concept promoted by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. In 2011 they published Creating Shared Value: Redefining Capitalism and the Role of the Corporation in Society, which is an amazing essay on the merits of this concept. It is well researched and well-defined. It makes perfect sense. I’d dare to say that CSV is Social Capitalism on the micro-level.

On the macro-level, Social Capitalism is something that is gaining momentum. Grassroots movements such as the “Occupied” movement are being very vocal against the Capital system, but even they will one day admit that Capitalism has its good sides too. On the other hand there are the Capitalists who absolutely hate the “socialist” concept, but there is a grassroots movement by billionaires to pledge their wealth to philanthropy. Can you envision the confluence of Social Capitalism happening somehow?

So, to summarize: ‘What happens After Capitalism?’ is a bit of a framed question in my opinion. It implies that Capitalism will come to an end, while I believe that it will always exist in one way or the other – however, the pure-form Capitalism has already been impacted by other systems and concepts, including Socialism. Therefore, Social Capitalism seems to be an ‘okay’ adaptation of Capitalism and Socialism – i.e. if it can’t be categorized as a complete metamorphosis. But will Capitalism as such go away? No… I don’t think so.

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