Roth, S. (2015), Free economy! On 3628800 alternatives of and to capitalism, Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, Vol 27 No. 2, 107-128 [ABS, AERES].
Article available for download here.
Abstract: Even the sharpest problem focus cannot help but sharpen the problem. Thus, the key to our understanding of alternatives to capitalism and alternative forms of capitalism is not in the ongoing problematization of the dominance of the economic principle. Rather, the question addressed in the present form theoretical argument is about which distinctions we need to draw in order to be able to observe capitalism. Answering this question, we show that the form capitalism can only be unfolded in the medium of functional differentiation. In resituating the economy as only one out of ten function systems, we demonstrate that both pro- and anti-capitalist concepts of society imply an economy-bias and, consequently, a neglect of the remaining function systems. We therefore suggest that the observation of both alternatives to capitalism and alternative capitalisms calls for a stronger focus on the non-economic function systems. Finally, we present an outlook on a way to more than three million alternatives of and to capitalism.
Keywords: Capitalism, form theory, functional differentiation, systemic constellations, paradox.
A Reintroduction to Capitalism
Strictly speaking, capitalism is boring. ‘You hear it once, you master the idea. The notion of devoting your life to it is horrifying if only because it’s so repetitious. It’s like sex.’ (William Frank Buckley, Jr. in Robin, 2004). Logically, larger parts of the world population are addicted to this peculiar game. Capitalism is indeed easy to play: All we need is a first team of players who consider capitalism to be the fast lane to the most existential, social and environmental problems, and the solutions to which it must be considered by the other team. Needless to say that the game is more fun if the playing field is the entire globe, and even more so if the field is crisis-shaken from time to time just because crisis have repeatedly been observed to trigger the player instincts particularly of the team anti-capitalism, which ‘lies dormant for years, then rushes back onto the scene in a brand new outfit and under an assumed name’ (Klein, 2002).
The key problem with capitalism, however, is that so far anti-capitalism has proved to be unable to win the game. Despite the fact that anti-capitalism is said to be as old as capitalism and, hence, the game itself (Tormey, 2012), anti-capitalism seems to only follow the fashions of capitalism and the trade cycles of the capitalist society rather than setting the pace. Capitalism, in contrast, appears hyper-adaptive and capable of growing with anti-capitalist criticism (Boltanski & Chiapello, 2005) even in times when ‘forms of global capitalism have lost their semi-sacred aura’ (Ossewaarde, 2012: 144). Despite its presumably insoluble inner tensions, capitalism always seems to be ahead by a nose if it comes to the power of naming (in) the liquid modernity, while anti-capitalism plays the cheerless and paradox role of critically evoking the opalescent ghost of capitalism as an auto-immune ‘system without an outside’ (Bousquet, 2002: 224).
The aim of the present article is to make a case for the thought that anti-capitalists serve neither society nor the planet by playing the role of the cheerless cheerleaders of capitalism, and that the higher goals of anti-capitalism can only be achieved if anti-capitalists master their ludic drives and direct them to a different game … (read full article here).