15 November 2008

Dreaming the New Economy

I had an exciting experience on Monday, at a meeting of the Executive of the UK Society for Co-operative Studies. This seems an unlikely setting for an epiphany, but perhaps not when you recall I was amongst friends who had not only been expecting the failure of capitalism but working steadfastly as part of a saner and just alternative for most of their lives.

For half the people in the room the end of a capitalism was already a known reality, and the more I thought about this the more I realised that they were right. Had governments not intervened, the financial sector and then the real economies of the leading capitalist nations would have collapsed over the past couple of months. We the people are now supporting the economy - and also owning large parts of it. That is not capitalism according to any definition I can think of.

Sharing this thrilling news with others can be an interesting experience. When I spoke at a public meeting in Lancaster on Tuesday a couple of people had violent physical reactions to the news - as if they had received significant voltages of unexpected electricity. Others warily pointed to the adaptability of the system in the face of past crises and collapses.

This is a good lesson to remember, but what it tells us is not that we are wrong to think that capitalism is finished but rather that now is the crucial time to argue for the utopia we want to put in its place. We have to have the courage right now to dream the future we want to see, to demand it, and to build it together.

When I used the phrase 'building the post-capitalist economy' as the subtitle for my book Market, Schmarket in 2006 it felt like whistling in the dark, singing songs of hope in the face of the juggernaut of globalisation. But the power of capitalism was always more apparent than real, always the power of the conjuror. Let's not be mesmerised now: now is the time to create the better future we have all dreamed of.

1 comment:

  1. You know what's the problem? You say "let's create". Something communists dreamed of - crowd will just stand up and start "building a better world".
    No, this hasn't been possible and never will be. Because capitalism is the core of human nature. We want to consume. More - there is never a boundary. We want to exchange things, in order to consume more. That's it. There has been capitalism even in the communist countries - the black market, usually stronger than the "official" market, was under heavy capitalistic rules.
    I know this world is not ideal, but i don't believe this crisis can change anything. It's just a drop in the ocean of time...
    Take care