Is capitalism dying?

Jeremy Rifkin – President of the Foundation on Economic Trends:

“While I suspect that capitalism will remain part of the social schema for at least the next half century or so, I doubt that it will be the dominant economic paradigm by the second half of the twenty-first century…

The Collaborative Commons is ascendant and, by 2050, it will likely settle in as the primary arbiter of economic life in most of the world. An increasingly streamlined and savvy capitalism will continue to soldier on at the edges of the economy…”

His latest book is called “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet Of Things, The Collaborative Commons, And The Eclipse of Capitalism”

“As humanity transitions into an age of extreme weather conditions and water scarcity, will food come to undermine the constructive transformations we are moving towards

Rifkin does acknowledge that without good solutions and preparations for scarcity, the emergence of an alternative to capitalism becomes significantly less probable.”

capitalism dying

My thought was: “And maybe that is why companies like Monsanto, Nestle, Gazprom, Bayer, Pfizer, banks and others try to dominate the food, water and energy supply chains. It is not about food security, health or society, it is about maintaining power in a declining system.”

Marketing and research budgets help to share another image, and most people are affected by commerce and media. “… He who controls the media, controls the people …”

Marketing has become psychology; with a purpose to affect human behavior to like and buy ‘stuff’. How? By making you feel good about yourself.

Science has become so intertwined with commerce and politics that one can hardly speak of any scientific independence. That makes outcomes of research by most institutes very disputable. “No dog bites off the hand that feeds him, it licks it and wiggles it’s tail gratefully.”

There might be other, more genuine reasons, for business leaders and political leaders to invest in more ‘sustainable’ solutions. But if optimization of profit and shareholder value is the primary driver, it becomes a ‘trick’, just to get more customers, more profit and more shareholder value. This is called “green washing” and is not going to work.

Instead of maximizing customer sales, profit and shareholder value, focus should be on long term continuity, innovation and stakeholder value. It places profit in a larger perspective as a condition for continuity instead of framing it as a purpose as such. Purpose and profit are not the same, they can never be.

This requires a shift in thinking and in acting and that, again, takes time, courage and perseverance. It also requires education, practice and effort of our current and future leaders.

My question actually is: “Does capitalism wants to survive or evolve?” Personally I believe it wants to evolve. But the current leaders focus – in my opinion – on survival. And that doesn’t work in an evolving society. It is a death scenario.

I do not doubt the positive values of capitalism as a vehicle. Nor am I in favour or against capitalism. I do question the qualifications – or rather the world views – of the drivers, their egocentric behavior and their ‘win-lose’ morale.

Where current capitalism started with a dream, liberté, egalité et fraternité, our current leaders seem to have forgotten the dream and have broken many peoples hearts. I can understand how that happens, but – though I tried – I can not justify it.

Accra neighbor Poverty in India

How can I justify current economy and global leadership with the people in Africa and India I engage, who have nothing and yet still share because it is the right thing to do?

How to justify it with traditional people who want progress, but not under conditions of current economy leaders, having to replace traditional values for a modern lifestyle?

How to justify it with people who do have the capacities but don’t have an honest chance in society, simply due to lack of money (poverty) or personal safety  (violence)?

It’s not just, nor right! People know it and, maybe, that is where the distrust in current leadership comes from. That’s might be why people don’t vote or raise their voice in extreme; why people fight or flight.

Change is not coming from systems like government or corporations. It comes from people who are curious to learn new ways of thinking and implement them in their actions. And maybe they work in governments or corporations.

Current focus in innovation is on technology, but we should also focus on ethics and behavior in companies and societies. There is a dangerous dis-balance. Technology will help, but not solve the challenges we face.

We have the technologies to do the most amazing things. But do we also have the consciousness to use them in a way that serves life on Earth?

World economy and our lives are so intertwined that, if we don’t, the impact is disastrous for many people and for life on Earth in general.

I trust evolution and resilience of living beings. But, 50 years from now, I will most likely will not live anymore; and I don’t want to wait. Wait for ‘someone’ to release me, a leader or guru that will save us.

The Guru is inside, inside all of us. We all have an inner moral compass. We know in our hearts what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. Our bodies tell us when we (re)act out fear or from an open and free space. It tells us when we are hurt or happy.

Most of us are surviving, people and current systems. To survive is exhausting; it fatigues and uses up most resources we have; money, oil, water, etc. To defend what we have, with more people to share with and less to share, is creating tensions, wars and climate change.

Money was supposed to liberate us and make life more easy. Reality is that for many it has become a ‘prison’ or a ‘purpose’. “… He who dominates the money, dominates the world.”

In nature, every living species adopts to local circumstances and the species as a whole survives by diversity. Adopting just one dominant economic or social model on a global scale, like we tend to do, is bound to lead to extinction. It is not how nature survives and therefore it is unnatural to us.

And if capitalism wants to survive, it should stop killing the environment it is part of and start to accept other realities as equally true. Co-creation brings more resilient options than collaboration.

But, to be honest, the title of this writing is wrong. It is not about capitalism.

flower of life plant

The largest capitalist economies – the US and Europe – don’t actually differ so much from the largest socialist economies – China and Russia.

I see similar patterns; it is like the US/Europe and China/Russia driving the same cars, only in different colors. And even when they are driving different brands, the cars still have the same basic function.

So if it is not about capitalism, what is it about then? The key question is about human behavior and ethics. Like Clare Graves’ question “What is healthy human behavior?”

It is easy to question other peoples behavior or morale, but more effective to work on my own. The most profound question to understand human ethics and behavior is: “who am I?”

It is a tough practice because it means entering into discomfort and facing my personal likes and dislikes as mine to deal with. It means not rejecting others for ‘triggering’ something inside me. It means to be honest to myself beyond my own lies to myself.

A ‘leader’ with moral compass never is in struggle with himself or the other. Practice brings mastery. I try, fail, learn, and try again.

I also notice I’d like to have an easy way out. A little voice asking; “Can’t I buy some ‘instant enlightenment’ anywhere or find a leader/guide who will save us from our mistakes?”

God large

That is Freedom

Freedom actually means to oblige. At least that is the definition in all world religions and all spiritual traditions.

Wisdom is more than having a bright mind. Freedom of mind and word are more powerful than oppression by rule or sword. Freedom of word is to express self with respect for the other.

But wisdom and freedom are difficult because they require an open, genuine relationships with myself, with other people, and with the environment I live in.

Self knowledge and acceptance are the base. Relationship is key to realize a shift from surviving to thriving; to act beyond, but with, our fight-flight patterns.

That’s life, at least my life.
And I try to live it with my survival patterns, but not having them in the drivers’ seat.
Occasionally I succeed.

Only need more money …

About Alain B. Volz

Alain Volz M.Sc. (1969) - Social Economy Entrepreneur, founder and director of ATMA - has studied Business Administration and Organizational Psychology. He started his career with Royal Dutch Ahold and has worked with IPMMC and TC&O. For 10 years Alain has been working with Twynstra Gudde Consultants and Managers as senior consultant Human Talent & Change Management. He was responsible for Competency Based Human Talent Management. He is co-founder of the Center for Human Emergence in the Netherlands (CHE), a former member of the CHE alignment circle and founding director of CHE School of Synnervation (currently Synnervate). In 2011 he held the position of partner with the RnR Group in Maarn. Alain is Strategy & Alignment Officer at Dipaliya Women's Association in Tamale, Ghana. In the Netherlands he is board member of the committee for the position of women and minorities in the Dutch Democratic Party (D66 Thema Afdeling V/M Sociale Innovatie). As such he represented D66 in the PVO; a cross party National committee consisting of represents from 6 different political parties (CDA, CU, D66, Groen Links, PvdA, VVD). The office of ATMA is located at the ImpactHub Amsterdam & the ImpactHub Accra.
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2 Responses to Is capitalism dying?

  1. Michiel Doorn says:

    Eindelijk mijn yahoo (nieuwsbrieven) folder aan het doorwerken. Dank voor het mooie artikel. Ik hoop dat alles goed met je is en ik zal je binnenkort bellen. Huis nog steeds niet klaar. Net mijn ouders drie weken op bezoek gehad. We zitten in een gemeubileerd appartement en we zijn een weekje naar de bergen geweest waar Nico, Aedin en vriendin ook heen gekomen zijn. Vier generaties. Alles goed gegaan, maar wat een zorg, aandacht en werk. Heeft me wel doen denken over het proces van ouder worden.

    tot binnenkort ,vriend. ps. doe dit yahoo adres maar weg:, komt meteen aan

  2. donsalmon says:

    Very thoughtful post, I really enjoyed it.

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