Does Capitalism Have a Future?
Randall Collins, Michael Mann, Craig Calhoun
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In Does Capitalism Have a Future?, a global quintet of distinguished scholars cut their way through to the question of whether our capitalist system can survive in the medium run. Despite the current gloom, conventional wisdom still assumes that there is no real alternative to capitalism. The authors argue that this generalization is a mistaken outgrowth of the optimistic nineteenth-century claim that human history ascends through stages to an enlightened equilibrium of liberal capitalism. All major historical systems have broken down in the end, and in the modern epoch several cataclysmic events-notably the French revolution, World War I, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc-came to pass when contemporary political elites failed to calculate the consequences of the processes they presumed to govern. At present, none of our governing elites and very few intellectuals can fathom a systemic collapse in the coming decades. While the book's contributors arrive at different conclusions, they are in constant dialogue with one another, and they construct a relatively seamless-if open-ended-whole.
Written by five of world's most respected scholars of global historical trends, this ambitious book asks the most important of questions: are we on the cusp of a radical world historical shift?
journalism. Focusing solely on the paid employment generated by IT as compared to the jobs displaced by IT, and extrapolating trends over a period of decades, is it plausible that 70% or more of world employment will be computer programmers and designers of software and computer applications? Bear in mind that computerization is still in its youth, past its infancy but not yet into maturity. The metaphor is overly biological, but the point is that more sophisticated computation is still to come:
financial, human, or natural costs of the damage. Capitalism generates terrific wealth, in other words, but it does it always with the byproduct of severe “illth” (to use the term coined by John Ruskin in polluted and poverty-stricken nineteenth-century England). It can continue to generate the wealth only as long as the illth is tolerated. States try to manage the tradeoff, but taxing capitalism adequately to pay for its own costs undercuts their international competitiveness and potentially
will we learn? And how much must we unlearn in order to survive? There remains the specter of extermination from nuclear weapons. Ever since the end of the Cold War and the hubristic attempt to impose an American unipolarity, nuclear proliferation has become virtually unavoidable. There might not be imminent danger in terms of interstate warfare. Indeed it is almost the contrary. Nuclear weapons are essentially defensive weapons and therefore reduce, not increase, the likelihood of interstate
majorities in the United Nations and multiple other transnational institutions. The sole exception was in the one agency that controlled military matters—the U.N. Security Council, where the veto power of each side ensured the military status quo. This arrangement worked very well in the beginning. And then the self-liquidating character of a geopolitical quasi-monopoly began to take its toll. The two most significant geopolitical changes in the two decades following 1945 were revolts in the
Social Democrats who simply declined to utilize the label for reasons peculiar to the political history of the United States. 5 Most Latin American countries had become formally independent in the first half of the nineteenth century. But populist movements there showed analogous strength to national liberation movements in the still formally colonial world. 1 I discuss them much more intensively in the last two volumes of my The Sources of Social Power: The Great Depression in Volume 3,