How capitalism works – and doesn’t work

February 7, 2009

workersresistance09poster1Philip Ferguson

The Spark February 2009

(The following article is the first in a two-part series on the present economic crisis. This part explains how the system operates; the second part, in our March issue, will be an examination of what’s happening right now - and what workers can do about it.)

According to economics.about.com, “In every economic system, entrepreneurs and managers bring together natural resources, labor, and technology to produce and distribute goods and services.” They do qualify this by claiming, “But the way these different elements are organized and used also reflects a nation’s political ideals and its culture.” (They also note Marx’s description of a capitalist economy as one in which a small group of people who control wealth make the key economic decisions.)

It’s important to understand that the idea that every economic system has, or requires, “entrepreneurs and managers” in order to operate is factually wrong. For most of the time that human beings have existed we lived in collective societies, without entrepreneurs and managers. Different social classes only arose about 10,000 years ago and it’s only in the past few hundred years that capitalism has been the dominant global system. Facts, however, have never been allowed to get in the way of capitalist ideology – that is, the set of ideas which seek to justify the present system and usually do so by making it appear that capitalism is ‘natural’ and eternal.

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