by Umair Haque
February 08, 2019

from Eudaimonia Website







What Happens

after Capitalism Ends...?


Here's a tiny question:

Do you think capitalism will be around fifty years from now? A hundred...?

I don't  -  at least not as the fundamental organizing principle of the world it is today.


I think if it's the best we've got  -  well, my friends, we're toast. I don't think capitalism is going to survive this century  -  because it's already making everything more or less self destruct.

Indulge me for a moment and think with me about it.


Imagine the world fifty years from now  -  maybe a hundred years from now. Don't add any kind of amazing technologies, like free energy for everyone, or magical reinventions  -  no miracles allowed:

we're trying to think clearly.

Just extend now gently and slowly fifty years forward, and then a hundred, if you like.

What do you see? Here's what I see.

A world ravaged, troubled, broken, and shattered.


Climate change has left cities beginning to drown. The weather's become more violent  -  and everything's more unpredictable as a result.


As people flee to zones of relative security, societies  -  already destabilized by inequality and corruption  -  begin to buckle and break.

But there aren't enough jobs to go around. They've been automated away. What used to be a factory teeming with workers is now a plant buzzing with robots. Even creative and analytical jobs have been automated away.


Books and songs and films and laws  -  all written with the help of "AI", if not by it. Bang! There goes the economy.

Society, as a result, operates according to something like a caste system now.


There are the ultra rich, the old poor, and the new poor  -  and nothing in between. What used to be a middle class, the defining achievement of modernity, is long gone.

What's a middle class job? Life? Income? Mind? Values? All relics of a bygone age...


Instead, in the new caste society, what safety there is is found in patronage. Get on a billionaire's good side  -  maybe he'll toss you enough pennies to eke out a decent living for a while.

As a result,

  • The economy has turned dark.


  • People have turned to vice and crime just to make a living.


  • Women sell their bodies online  -  which is to say their feelings  -  because they must compete with sex-tech.


  • Men sell violence, in whatever way that they can  -  maybe they join this mafia or that mafia, whether it's called a "corporation" or not, as it is today in Russia.

As a result, knowledge, insight, thinking  -  all these things, which have always been great luxuries, grind to a halt. And with them go gentleness, decency, civility, tolerance.

The atmosphere of the age is therefore one of abuse, violence, greed, despair, ruin:

a world on the perpetual brink of fascism.

Extremists are always blaming all these problems  -  a dying planet, not enough jobs, money hoarded at the top  -  on the most vulnerable, the other, the weak.


Who are those?


They're the ones fleeing into zones of safety from elsewhere, usually. They find themselves put into camps, farmed for profit  -  or maybe just starved to death.

Demagogues and authoritarians rise to the top, as a result.


They offer these broken societies protections of three kinds.

  • First, they offer the "pure" protection from the vermin who have come to infect them, the climate refugees, and migrants of collapse.


  • Second, they offer the "good people" protection from the worst kinds of fascists.


  • Third, they offer everyone protection from the worst ravages of these epic problems of an age of ruin  -  even if its just a kind of psychological safety.


Does my portrait frighten you  -  or does it sound like we're already on the way to such a place?


Have I overstated the case?


Go ahead and think about it for yourself  -  if nothing changes… does or doesn't the future resemble the above, in its broad contours?


Does the present?

You're right to say, thought, that my portrait feels incomplete. Even amidst all this  -  societies collapsing, economies ruined, planet dying  -  there will be islands and oceans of prosperity.


What will they be like? Let's think about it.

They will have to be places that use every resource they have  -  whether rivers or trees or human minds and bodies  -  much more considerately, carefully, and delicately.


Those resources will have to be put to genuinely beneficial uses  -  they can't just be chewed up to create more Facebooks, because such things benefit no one much in the end:

 they only create more misery, hatred, unhappiness, loneliness, and despair  -  which means resources are being used up only to make life go backwards.

To use all their resources  -  which is to say their many kinds of capital, whether social, intellectual, natural, human, creative  -  more wisely, they won't be able to simply say:

"you guys maximize the profits you earn out of that stuff  -  everything else but making more money is pointless!"

Instead, they'll have to go way beyond our idea of "profit", and make sure their organizations are actually putting all those resources to uses which benefit people.


That's work that will take a generation, and thousands of dedicated young people  -  creating something like the "GDP" and "profit" of the future.

But which people? Who decides?


Such organizations are going to have be managed not just by and for "shareholders"  -  but their boards and governing bodies will have to be composed of members from all groups and ranks and strata of society.


It'll be a tough job designing that  -  think of Elizabeth Warren's plan to put workers on board, and then square it.


That's hard work, too, that'll take more thousands of minds, more time, more ideas  -  creating the organizations, whether we still call them "banks" or "corporations", of the future.

What will people do in those organizations?


Their work won't be like today's work. Today's work is delineated and defined by all the above  -  there's a board, made up of "shareholders", who appoints a CEO, who decides how to maximize profit, this nanosecond… and off everyone goes to do it.


In our economies, mostly, everyone's a profit calculator  -  whether they know it or not, and I mean everyone, including (sadly) doctors and teachers, even when they don't want to be.


But tomorrow's organizations, because they'll be made for truer and bigger things than merely earning "profits" which "add up" to "GDP"  -  and managed for it by boards and governing bodies not merely made up of "shareholders" in said profit  -  will then do very different work, too.


Imagine human impact designers and eudaimonia architects and so on. Places that can make all these shifts will prosper.

We'll call them something like,

"second-wave social democracies", probably.



Because they will have done something vital and crucial, which too few of us  -  especially those of us in (North) America  -  understand or consider yet.

They will have gone beyond capitalism...

The portrait I've sketched for you above,

organizations, whether "corporations", "banks", or while economies, that don't just mindlessly maximize profit, but optimize possibility, the fulfillment of you, me, the river, the tree, which are governed not just by "shareholders", but by all their participants, and so do very different work, which adds up to a much more meaningful measure of worth and value than "profit" and "GDP" ,

...that's a portrait of post-capitalism.

Just contrast it with its opposite, for a second.

Organizations like "banks" and "corporations" and "hedge funds" that exist for one reason:

to maximize profits, for shareholders, hence are only governed by them, therefore do no other work at all, really...

This is capitalism, in the real world  -  outside the fairytales and fantasies of American economists and libertarian pundits.


In the real world, capitalism devolves to a system of exploitation for profit  -  and what's exploited is everything, from the planet, to minds, to bodies and democracy.


They're left chewed through and imploded  -  while money piles up in the coffers of the profiteers.


But money's just a way to say that,

"I want to trade my labour with you."

And yet not enough money to go around  -  ironically  -  is exactly where capitalism ends. Of course, without enough money, people's lives begin to fall apart, too, because they can't then acquire the basics they need to live.


If you doubt any part of that story, just take a look at America today, where 80% of people live paycheck to paycheck, 70% can't raise $1000 for an emergency, almost nobody will retire  -  while billionaires grow ultra rich.


Could a shortage of money be any more obvious? And yet it also means (North) Americans live without decent healthcare, education, food, childcare, and so on.

Now imagine that kind of society trying to survive in the world we described at the beginning. A world made of three things:

  •  a dying planet

  • destabilized societies

  • imploding economies...

Can you imagine a country where people are perpetually short of money  -  and hence the basics of life  -  surviving all that? I can't...


I can only see such societies imploding, perpetually, into fascism, authoritarianism, theocracy  -  all the forms of collapse which people embrace when times grow lean and hard.

It's for all those reasons that capitalism's obsolete, my friends. Many of you might not want it to be. Some of you might react angrily and violently to the very idea. But I want you to really think about it.


You've been failed by your intellectuals and thinkers for too long  -  they've fed you a strange, delusional fantasy  -  that capitalism can go on forever.


That doesn't mean business, trade, commerce, etc will go away  -  they existed long ago, but we didn't call them "capitalism", because ancient market stalls selling jugs of wine weren't.

(Yes, I know some of you, notably (North) Americans, will cry ,

 "but people have always said capitalism would end! People like Marx! They were wrong!"

Were they...?


Europe and Canada are now social democracies  -  making a decades long transition beyond capitalism, exploring the frontiers of human imagination and organization.


Asia and Africa want to be like them  -  not us poor, backwards Anglos now. Capitalism has been dying for a long time  -  only in (North) America, we're not taught how, why, or even that it has been.)

Capitalism won't be around a hundred years from now.


It's ashes  -  fascism and feudalism and neo-peasants serving neo-lords -  will be, if we stay this foolish and this deluded.


The troubles we face now are just a small, small taste of the devastation and ruin to come, as the planet begins to die, as societies fracture, as economies dwindle  -  as our shattered, exhausted resources run out, having been squandered by capitalism in the first place, on mega-yachts and palaces in the sky for billionaires, instead of societies that work for all, instead of lives that flourish, instead of things that endure.

Capitalism cannot work in a world whose resources are depleted, corroded, burned through, violated (unless by "work" we mean plunge us back into the Stone Age).


It is what did all that destruction in the first place  -  by exploiting everything for profit, without ever really paying its just, true, or full price, always taking, never giving, always preying, never creating.

The truth of this lesson:

 capitalism can't be the organizing force of the world it destroyed...  is already self-evident, if you care to look.

Societies that rely on capitalism most will be the first to implode  -  in fact, they already are:

just look at (North) America and Britain.

Asking capitalism to be the organizing principle of the world it ruined, is like asking the fire that burned down your house to rebuild it.


You can ask, sure  -  but the fire will laugh, and just keep on burning you right down into dust...