In its long history, Capitalism has undergone many booms and busts. It is, simply put, an economic system in which a relatively large group of people, workers, sell their labor and production to a small group of people, the owners, for a wage. It generates a lot of money for the few and some for others down the economic scale. Since the crash of 2008 and the bank bailout, the share of income and wealth flowing to the top 1 percent has accelerated. In fact, the top 1 percent took more than 90 percent of all new income.
The latest phase of Capitalism, neoliberalism, has left a train wreck in its wake. It’s produced a new Gilded Age. The gap between theoretical Capitalism and its actual workings is jaw dropping. The chasm is a far cry from the courses in economics taught in colleges and universities. We are told the system relies on the market. In fact, it depends heavily on government intervention. When the big capitalists are in trouble states are there to bail them out. Really existing Capitalism works for the few at the expense of the many. Look at the Trump tax cut. Epic levels of inequality are not just in the U.S. but are worldwide. An Oxfam report says, 82% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while 3.7 billion people, the poorest half of the world, saw no increase in their wealth.
The great radical historian Howard Zinn once told me, half in jest, that one of the greatest disasters to befall socialism was when the Soviet Union put it in the official name of the country: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I asked him to explain and he said, The USSR, which had little to do with socialism, it was an authoritarian state, wanted to capitalize on the almost universal good name that socialism had. And the capitalist countries played along by smearing socialism and conflating it with the USSR. If you expressed interest in socialism the response would be: “Why don’t you move to a gulag in Siberia? Today, because of growing wealth and income inequality and the Bernie Sanders campaign, he got more than 13 million votes, there is a resurgence of interest in socialism. Many young people are fed up with predatory capitalism and are looking for alternatives. Worker-owned and operated coops are springing up. These initiatives can proliferate and grow. And as Howard Zinn always said, authentic socialism must be small “d” democratic.
David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of many books, including The Limits to Capital, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Spaces of Global Capitalism, A Companion to Marx’s Capital, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism and The Ways of the World. He is among the top twenty most cited authors in the humanities and is the world’s most cited academic geographer.
Yanis Varoufakis is a former finance minister of Greece and a cofounder of an international grassroots movement, DiEM25, that is campaigning for the revival of democracy in Europe. He is the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, And the Weak Suffer What They Must?, The Global Minotaur and Talking with My Daughter About the Economy. After teaching for many years in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, he is currently a professor of economics at the University of Athens.
Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and currently a visiting professor at the New School in New York. The New York Times calls him “America’s most prominent Marxist economist.” He is the author of numerous books including Democracy at Work, Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens and Occupy the Economy with David Barsamian.