Category: Other stuff
Date: 30 May 2002
In the nineteenth century, in western Europe, it seemed like capitalism would produce a lot of angry workers and paupers who would overthrow the bourgeois state and create a dictatorship of the proletariat. Revolution was possible because many people had terrible subsistence level lives, and therefore very little to lose by very radical political change. However over the next hundred or more years (discounting those murdered in wars), the living standards of the average citizen of Western Europe rose to a comfortable level, life expectancy, literacy, and opportunities increased so much that only a small minority now want to fundamentally alter the system which had brought such prosperity. As the mass of people has become middle class, so the political structures have changed ( universal suffrage, legal protection, etc.) to reflect their power. Of course if we take into account the rest of the world,i.e most countries outside of western europe and North america, workers and peasants still form a vast majority of the world. There are enough discontented people with nothing to lose ( the more motivated ones seeking asylum are symptomatic of this)to create a revolution, overthrow the powerful capitalist states, and redistribute wealth.
You could argue that nothing has qualitatively changed about Capitalism, it still creates a vast mass of exploited workers ( the third world or the rest of the world),with a small minority of bourgeois benefitting from their exploitation( most people in the US and western europe. The numbers have just increased with the proportions staying the same, we only think Capitalism kind because we benefit from it.
Or you might think that Capitalism will eventually enrich the whole world, like it has the west. Depending on your judgement, or more importantly your nationality, you will either embrace capitalism as the future guarantor human happiness or seek to destroy it as an intrinsically evil system. Either way we see that there is a choice whic requires analysis of the questions: Must capitalism enslave the majority to enrich the minority? Does Capitalism create the conditions for its own destruction, or are we on the way to its total triumph.
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