Recently, numerous articles and books on the “crisis of capitalism” have been published that predict its near collapse or “depassement”. For those who have enough years to remember the nineties, it all seems unusual to announce then that the Hegelian end of history has finally arrived. Time has shown that newspapers were wrong. For today’s announcements of the downfall of capitalism, I believe that they are also groundless and that they misdiagnose the problem.
Facts show that capitalism is not only not in crisis, it is at the peak of its historical expansionFacts show that capitalism is not only not in crisis, but is at the peak of its historical expansion, both in terms of geographical distribution. as well as the rate of expansion in other areas (such as leisure or social networks), where it builds new markets and commodifies things that have not been the subject of market transactions.
Geographically, capitalism is today the dominant (or even unique) way of producing the planet, as in Sweden, where the private sector employs more than 70 percent of the labor force, or in the United States where it employs 85 percent, and in China where ( in a capitalistically organized way the private sector produces 80 percent of value added. (1) That, of course, was not the case before the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia and before China embarked on the process that it euphemistically describes as “transformation”, in effect replacing socialism with capitalist production relations.
Also, globalization and the technological revolution have opened up several new hitherto non-existent markets: the big market for personal data, the market for private cars, and housing for use (none of which was capital until Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and similar applications), the Nomad Entrepreneur Housing Services market (which did not exist before the WeWork platform emerged), as well as service markets such as elder care, child and pet care, food preparation and delivery , walking in procurement etc.
The social significance of emerging markets is that they create new capital: also, by setting the prices of things that have not yet been fixed, our goods (value in use) are converted into commodities (exchange value). Such capitalist expansion is not significantly different from the expansion of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, written by Adam Smith and Karl Marx. When new markets are established, goods and activities gain non-existent value. This does not mean that we will all hurry to rent out rooms to tourists or offer transportation in our own car, but that we will be aware of the financial loss we suffer because we do not. When the offered price becomes attractive (whether due to our financial circumstances or the relative price increase), many will emerge and thus strengthen.
New markets are fragmented in that they do not require full-time work. Thus commodification advances in parallel with the gig economy. In the gig economy we are both service providers (we can deliver pizza in the afternoon) and buyers of numerous services that have not been monetized so far (already mentioned: cleaning, cooking, nursing). It enables us to satisfy our needs in a market that in the long run raises questions about the functions and survival of the family.
If capitalism has expanded in all directions, why are we talking about a crisis? Are we expecting problems that are limited to rich countries for the time being to extend to the rest of the world? That’s not correct. The problems plaguing Western countries are primarily a consequence of the unequal distribution of the profits of globalization, as it was at the time of globalization in the 19th century when a disproportionately large portion of income went to Europeans.
New round of globalization is politically “sold” to Western countries in package with “end of history”, along with claims that wealthy nations will benefit most. New round of globalization is politically “sold” to western countries in package of “end of history” history, “along with claims that wealthy states and their populations will most benefit. But just the opposite happened. The Asian states with the largest number of residents benefited most: China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia. Behind the discontent with globalization are the differences between the expectations of the middle class in the west, the low growth of their income and the fall of the global income ladder. Their dissatisfaction is wrongly described as dissatisfaction with capitalism.
There is another problem. With the spread of market access to all (or almost all) activities in society, which is one of the features of developed capitalism today, politics has transformed into a kind of entrepreneurial activity. In principle, politics and leisure have historically not been areas where market principles have been applied. But that has changed. Hence the flourishing of corruption in today’s politics. Politics is seen as an economic activity, just like any other, and politicians who were not directly involved in corrupt practices expect, during their mandates, to monetize their contacts and knowledge when they finish their political careers. This kind of commodification produces cynicism and disappointment in mainstream politics and politicians.
This is not, therefore, a crisis of capitalism, but a crisis caused by the unevenly distributed effects of globalization and the spread of capitalism in areas that were not traditionally considered suitable for commercialization. In other words, capitalism has become too powerful and often conflicts with our deep-rooted beliefs. It may continue to expand and conquer new, yet non-commercialized spheres of human life. Or he will be reinforced and forced to “return his field of action” to the former.