The end of history? Ordinary folks give Capitalism a hard look

  
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Vol. 1 issue 39

Greetings,

It’s podcast time again. These take time to produce, and I do them myself, so thanks for your support and patience while I work on getting them together. This one with London-based economist Grace Blakeley, author of, STOLEN: How to Save the World from Financialization, is one of my favorites to date.

In it, Blakeley begins with a reference to the late British cultural theorist Mark Fisher and his notion that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is the end of Capitalism. She then gives a concise history of late 20th Century Capitalism beginning with the aftermath of WWII, all the way to now, touching on how a series of events helped tilt global markets in favor of the super-rich, resulting in the gutting of the middle class and today’s disproportionate distribution of resources world-wide.

It’s a well-written book, one you will zip through with Blakeley as an excellent guide. She is not preachy, but she is passionate about pointing out how Capitalism hasn’t worked for us the way we’ve been told it should.

In our interview, Blakely describes what “financialization” is, and breaks down how when off-shore money invested in various domestic economies, combines with the privatization of government functions, it leads to financiers, not elected officials, having the power to make decisions that impact everyday citizens’ lives.

These wealthy but faceless powerful often are those who never set foot in the US but still have immense impact on how we as communities are able to distribute and utilize our resources.

You might remember what that is like…it was called the Great Recession of 2008.

It is not fear of material poverty that Blakely argues is what fuels the rising tide of populism, but our having been rendered voiceless and powerless by people who have no reason to feel accountable to us.

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Ultimately, Blakeley advocates a form of Socialism as the solution to financialization (in the UK, spelled with an “s” not a “z”), and she makes an even case for why. I challenge her on some of it, but I also see the wisdom of what she puts forth.

As far as economic policies are concerned, I am not advocating anything, at least not yet. I am more interested in examining our options and seeing what has and hasn’t worked as the economic components foundational to modern democracy to date. I believe the likelihood is we are on the precipice of creating something entirely new.

Perhaps familiar political paradigms will be refashioned thanks to digital technology. I am not talking about artificial intelligence so much as just the power to communicate and so create communities that pop up and then easily reconfigure.

On the other hand, perhaps we are about to enter a phase in human history that looks like none humanity has ever seen, one we have yet to comprehend is even possible.

Whatever might be, Blakeley calls this a “moment of contingency”. The far Right is rising, the financial class is digging in, and the Left is growing louder as people who never before saw themselves as activists are starting to organize in support of protecting themselves and their communities.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an Older vs. Younger Generation argument. This is about equity, not age.

Something I feel confident in saying is that regardless of who “wins” the messaging wars during this Age of Populism, they will do so against a backdrop of dramatic change that will happen swiftly and evidently.

Will you be ready? I think if you listen to the logic of arguments like Blakeley’s and consider how it might resonate with your own experience, even if you disagree with her, you will be able to more effectively help shape and respond to the coming change.

I hope you enjoy this provocative conversation and leave your comments for others to ponder, too.

Whitney

PS: Premium subscribers, be on the look-out for a bonus email with an outtake from this interview. In it, Blakeley and I discuss how climate change protests have become a means to a greater end, and why they now involve not just environmental activists, but ordinary people who previously might never have envisioned themselves as protestors.

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