Book Review: The Future of Capitalism – Facing New Anxieties

“Despite the promise of prosperity, what modern capitalism is currently delivering is aggression, humiliation and fear: the Rottweiler Society. To achieve the promise, our sense of mutual regard has to be rebuilt. Pragmatism tells us that this process will need to be guided by context and evidence-based reasoning.” – Sir Paul Collier

Capitalism – an economic system in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interests of society. The essential feature of capitalism is the motive to make a profit.

When we hear about capitalism there’s a tendency to associate it all the bad things in our society from climate change, growing burden of non-communicable diseases, unprecedented income inequality among others. However, to a greater extent we miss the part that capitalism is the same driver that has contributed to globalization and benefits associated with it. This is not to argue that capitalism hasn’t failed. I believe that as a society, we have neglected our social contract and therefore failed capitalism by failing to chaperone it’s framework for the good of the society. It’s our infallibility as a society.

In the recent past I’ve had conversations with some of my friends especially during the campaign period both on ideological perspectives and economic imperatives of it thereof. For one, there is never a way we will get to detach politics from our affairs as a nation and therefore the prevailing conversations during political seasons play to the tune of what the masses want and feel. In some circles people would call this the populism era. It may be the case but in principle, what I have noted and confirmed from the arguments by Sir Paul Collier is that we are in a highly polarized and fragmented society. We lack a common shared identity which can unite us to pursue a particular course. This has made it easy for our political rhetoric to be devoid of principles but rather what the masses want. Reflecting on the “hustler” vs “dynasty” views it is clear that both factions are separate and different. While this is the case, the masses to a greater extent feel left out and cling on the slightest form of hope that they may get redemption in the end. This is the reality of our societies as far as we are.

As Paul Collier argues, the fabric of our societies as individuals were anchored on socialistic tendencies which were informed by our shared identities. Growing up in the village, an elder had the responsibility to correct you whenever you made a mistake. This isn’t the standard at the moment with parents even going ahead to castigate anyone who dare correct their children. With shared identities our altruistic human tendencies i.e., acts of rescue where we could support the needy in the society because we felt we had a responsibility of care for them prevailed. At the same time, there were acts of reciprocal obligation. We knew that by doing the right thing, we would count on others to do the same in their pursuits so ultimately whether directly or indirectly, we would benefit from communal kindness. With lose of our shared identities, we were left at the mercy of our individual pursuits and sheer luck with distrust festering in our midst. Trust is a prerequisite for collaboration and cooperation. This meant that as a society we went for what served our individual interests whether at the expense of the society. Unfortunately, with an economic model much acclaimed and hailed, the focus had to be set with blames on the economic model.

In the book, Paul argues that for us to refocus our society, overcome the challenges we are dealing with there is need to focus on fostering a shared identity starting at the family level, to the community, national and global level. Failure to establish this will ensure we stay stuck where we are or fall further behind in our developmental aspirations. In our basic and primordial being, we are social beings which have worked hard to disengage. Unfortunately, this is becoming our main undoing. Capitalism can serve us when guided by principled and objective reasoning which is lacking.

In my thinking, I believe it is time to detach from the notion that the end justifies the means to focus on the means to that ultimate end. It’s time to rethink our future, rethink capitalism and instead of castigating the economic model, we need to anchor in on our value system. Social capitalism is the future on a social, economic and political front to rewrite the wrongs of the past and create a more equal & fair world. Divergences in are a reality in our beings.

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