Ephemeral means, lasting for a very short time. Am I coming to my past leftist sense thinking that “capitalism” is short lived. Therefore, it is Ephemeral!
The duration of it, capitalism, depends on the persistence of Marxism in our world. When Marxism joins the flat earthers in terms of its popularity, in another word when it becomes a common knowledge that Marxist's claims are fictitious, as the claims of flat earth proponents are, then “capitalism” as an ideology will be gone too. For a simple reason, “capitalism” for the most part is an ideological creation of Marxists and this ideology, in various guises, is dished out by today’s leftists. In return the rightists claim that a “real capitalism” is what we need, and its establishment would eliminate our problems.
If “capitalism” is a description of the fact that capital is indicative of our societies, a demarcation between us and the primitive, hunter-gatherer, societies then it is merely a word for the reality of our existence. In this sense the term capitalism could be an abbreviation for: societies that use surplus for production as a regenerative tool for their sustenance, development and creation of more surplus. This is a precise description but that is not how capitalism is looked at or defined.
Google defines capitalism as: “an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”
Merriam Webster says: “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”
Can one get more muddleheaded than these definitions? We do not have either pure private or pure state control and we do not have “free markets” from the fetters of the state. We never had, and all indications are that we are not going to have. What state of existence are these definitions referring to?
In contrast let us take another category of our existence. Bipedalism is “the condition of being two-footed or of using two feet for standing and walking”. Wikipedia’s definition is: Bipedalism “is a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of its two rear limbs or legs.” These are very clear description of humans, their real mode of locomotion. We deal with the fact that we are bipedal, and we experiment with it by inventing new exercises and motions – just look at the magic of gymnastics – and we do not fret about “bipedalism” whether it is good or bad. We know, our species in becoming bipedal, diverging from our joint ancestry with great apes, was not without its side effects. Biologists and physicians are aware of the weaknesses in our lower back due to our bipedal transformation, sometimes very painful. Many of us have experienced it. All we can do is to deal with its difficulties and pains, focus on the advantages of walking on the hind legs and reap the benefits of it. We do not think of having different ideological camps one chattering about the benefits of “bipedalism” and the other the anti-bipedalism forming the camp of returning to walking on all four, the “fourism”. One talking about stiffening the backbone through some re-engineering of the back to eliminate the backpain, the “real” or “true” bipedalism. The other claiming that we all will be equal without backpain by returning to walking on four, and this return will be on a higher level of “smartness”. That contention would be hilarious, wouldn’t it!
Why then this confusion in our definition of capitalism? To understand this, we must realize that there is a different definition of capitalism espoused by the leftists and Marxist ideologues. Marx perceived that “capitalism” is the ultimate form of exploitation which will degrade the working people particularly the “proletariat” to the point that they will have nothing to lose but their chains. Since 1848, when Marx put out his famous “Communist Manifesto”, the lives of people has moved in the other direction, it has seen a steady improvement. During the last several decades an unprecedented number of people have moved out of the poverty and all indications are that this trend will be continuing. This is true particularly where the Marxist state control of capital has loosened. Chinese economic growth due to the reduction of the state control is unprecedented. The most recent example of tightening the leftist form of state control, as Venezuela, its results has been disastrous. Meanwhile, state has always been part of the mix of our social evolution and is inseparable from production and reproduction of surplus and it seems that on this point there should not be an ideological contention.
If you are interested in my view of the futility of Marx’s theoretical perceptions you can find this in a series of posts beginning with December 3, 2013, “Shortcomings – Book”.
Whatever Marx’s theoretical gyrations might have been, the Marxists point of departure for the elimination of “exploitation” begins with the state control of the capital and thus when you look at the present definition of “capitalism” you will find this convolution in our perception. This definition, as shown above, is a marriage of the leftist’s view, state control, and the rightist purist perception, only individual control or free market, of the capital. This forms the basis of today’s “capitalism”, thus the muddle-headedness! One cannot eliminate capital as much as leftists would like to and its total control by the state is impossible. This attempt is as old as our history, oral and written. It has been shown through multiple experiences – from the time of Christ who wanted to throw the money changers out of the temple and the Muslims taboo of the interest on money to the Russian and Chinese experience in the widest possible form of control over capital – that it will not work. This attempt would not be much different than trying to go back walking on all four, equally impossible.
The data are clear that “capitalism”, as the employment of surplus, particularly in its present form money and finance, has been a boon to the development of our societies. Capital is here to stay and its deployment by individuals and the state is not going to go anywhere. But this does not answer the question, why our muddle-headedness persists; why this marriage of leftist and rightist perception of capitalism. Our present-day leftists and Marxists are finding new breath of life and there is a surge of leftism and consequently a surge of rightism in our politics! Contentions and confusions are not limited to “capitalism”, it is everywhere in all spheres of our lives. More on this subject in the next posts.