In the United States, we are raised to believe that capitalism is the answer. We all have a chance to succeed and fulfill The American Dream. As we have developed as a nation, we come to realize that the system doesn’t serve the individual like it’s supposed to. As a Political Science major, I study economic and political systems such as capitalism, socialism, fascism, and communism. I’m particularly attracted to the trends of capitalism and have come to believe that a post-capitalist society is on its way. The end of capitalism will work it’s way up through the working class and we will be able to create a more communal and organic economy. This transition will be the fourth Industrial Revolution. The Technological Revolution is upon us and we will watch humanity grow more powerful together.
To start from the beginning, capitalism arose in the fourteenth century, during the Middle Ages. Serfs and landowners had a feudal system that had no competition. Once serfs broke free from that, a society of farmers would sell and exchange their crops in the new competitive markets. This developed into capitalism as the serfs and farmers were being paid and individually controlling their own ‘company.’ HistoryWorld explains that capitalism in the Middle Ages was, “full-scale capitalism [resulting] in an inevitable divide between employer and employed, or capital and labor.”
Capitalism evolved for generations to be what it is today. An article from the website TechCrunch states, “Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has developed complex supply chains, from designers to manufacturers, from distributors to importers, wholesalers, and retailers, it’s what allowed billions of products to be made, shipped, bought and enjoyed in all corners of the world.” So much information and services that were once difficult to work with are being simplified by the internet.
The system has had both strong praises and criticisms. It has absolutely built inequality between the lower, middle, and upper classes. It has also been responsible for the exploitation of the workers. However, as we advance as a collective society, we might begin transitioning into a post-capitalistic society. Robotic technology has and will continue to cut out many service industry jobs such as clerks and repetitive labor workers. Also, information and media are being shared through websites, such as Wikipedia. This explains why businesses such as Blockbuster have closed down. There is no longer a need for the physical copy of a movie when you can download it straight to your television.
Capitalism is seen when an industry or company is run held in control by an individual. But, we see people creating their own digital companies on platforms like eBay, where they can send their own items directly to the buyer. Large companies such as Uber, Facebook, and Airbnb are good examples of what happens we stop letting major companies have the monopoly. Quoting the same article from TechCrunch, “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.” We no longer need travel agents to find us the best deals because of sites like Expedia nor do we need video store clerks because of Netflix. Finally, as a whole, we are seeing the elimination of that middleman as people deal directly with each other.
Andre Gunder Frank, an economic historian, explains in his Dependency Theory that the consequences of economic exploitation and capitalism resulted in limited autonomy, exploitation of their own people, alienation, and instability. If that were indeed the case, advancing our service technology could lead to the termination of repetitive labor workers and other mundane jobs. As of now, the worker has become separate from his labor that the product is nothing more than abstract to him. Based on his piece Development of the Underdeveloped (‘66), one could infer that Frank is not happy with capitalism and believes that it causes failure in the global economy. As a respected sociologist, his argument has been taken very seriously and has inspired numerous other studies on the topic.
Capitalism has caused worldwide financial crises on multiple occasions, the most famous being the recession of 2008. Though capitalism has definitely aided us on a global scale, it has slowly become outdated since the 1990’s. We have the world at our fingertips through the internet and have created a sort of digital democracy. We are changing the way we interact and our priorities are shifting towards a collaborative economy. A lot of today’s highest paying jobs are directed towards improving our technological abilities. Based on my research, one can conclude that, though the transition might be chaotic, a post-capitalistic society would be a step in the right direction. A sharing economy is becoming the norm and I expect to see bigger and better forms of this economy in the future.
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