The 20th century has been the century of capitalism and its expansion. But capitalism is only the “end of history” as a dead end. People fear the words ‘socialism’, ‘anarchism’, and ‘communism’ because they believe these words represent a move backwards, a desire to destroy everything that economic markets have built. There may be those that feel this way, but this is not necessarily correct. The desire to erase capitalism must be differentiated from the desire to move beyond capitalism.
History is best visualized not as a line, but as a series of pendulum swings between opposing positions. Society exists in a constant state of tension between opposing ideas. The French Revolution was a collision of the medieval idea of a Great Chain of Being where the aristocracy rules over the peasants with the Renaissance idea of equality. In the 1850’s Abolitionists in the United States did not argue that slavery should be made illegal only in new states, but argued that all slaves should be freed as soon as possible. Social change occurs not through the accumulation of minor variations from the status quo, but through intentionally pursuing the opposite of what the existing paradigms say. As Goethe put it, “Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.”
The contribution of capitalism was the creation of a new structure of communication--an economic globalization of which markets are just the bare-bones structure. The longer we stay stuck in this skeletal structure, the drier and more brittle the structure becomes. We must start to flesh it out. We must learn from the globalizing process that economic markets created. Give credit where it’s due--economic markets have encouraged more cross-culturation and travel between different nations than ever before in the history of the world. The process of globalization is an accomplishment that we should credit capitalism for. But, as Wolfgang Giegerich remarks, “this process needs us, needs our heart, our feeling, our imaginative attention and rigorous thinking effort.” “It must,” Giegerich continues, “be reborn through the soul and in the soul,” by which he means we must not forget anything that capitalism has taught us about trade, about product-promotion, about resume-building. We must learn from these language-experiments, but we must not allow their practice to become brittle or stale.
Socialists and anarchists absolutely must learn to view their positions not as descending from capitalism, but as transcending it. It is essential for any post-capitalist vision to maintain the significant increases in worldwide communication and ability to relocate that capitalism has started.