January 23, 2020


Understanding Conservative Anti-Capitalism (Mark Granza, 1/22/20, Areo)

Even Karl Marx appreciated capitalism's transformative capacity. As George Will writes in this piece from the early 1980s, "Marx got one thing right: capitalism undermines traditional social structures and values; it is a relentless engine of change, a revolutionary inflamer of appetites, enlarger of expectations, diminisher of patience." See, for example, the enthusiastic support many progressive causes currently enjoy among the American corporate world, a phenomenon known as woke capitalism. Will argues: "The Republican platform stresses two themes ... One is cultural conservatism, the other is capitalist dynamism. The latter dissolves the former. Republicans see no connection between the cultural phenomena they deplore, and the capitalist culture they promise to intensify." The GOP takes a far from laissez-faire approach to economics, yet the party is still prone to confuse any critique of capitalism with a leftist plot. But, if it weren't for capitalism's tendency to conserve certain hierarchical social structures, a glance at its contemporary cultural effects could lead one to think it had been designed as an antidote to conservatism itself.

In his April 2019 debate with Jordan Peterson on Marxism vs Capitalism, Slavoj Zizek argues that, "What the alt-right obsession with cultural Marxism expresses is the reluctance to confront the fact that the phenomena that they criticize as a Marxist plot--moral degradation, sexual promiscuity, consumerist hedonism--are outcomes of the immanent dynamic of capitalist societies." The debate exposes the problematic expectations surrounding any discussion of capitalism--"one is expected to serve either as an avatar of Western liberal order or a defender of the Soviet Union, as if it were still the year 1972," as Christian O'Brien puts it--and highlights the way in which conservatives tend to rely on a dogmatic defence of free markets. Peterson has never hidden his support for traditional values and his disdain for Marxist ideology. But, in his attempts to combat dangerous ideas, such as the communist abolition of private property, and the notion that government should seize the means of production, Peterson often reduces his analysis to the lowest possible level of resolution--adopting the kind of binary view of economics characteristic of TPUSA. The claim that we must continue to support free markets because of the shortcomings of The Communist Manifesto is simplistic and fails to address modern concerns about free markets.

...it is increasing capital, not consuming it. And every mechanism that works towards this end on a personal level is conservative: investment; conservation of private property; strong institutions (like marriage); self-control (to exploit the miracle of compound interest; etc  While, on a public level, it requires the adoption of the most effective means we can discover to grow capital in the first place: strong governing institutions and regulation; the free flow of goods and people; utilization of the capacity of every individual; universal education; support for innovation; a comprehensive social welfare net to take care of those who do not succeed in that economy, so that they do not seek to tear it down; etc. 

The Left/Right are not criticizing capitalism as we practice it; their complaints are with something else altogether.  What makes the Left oppose capitalism is the fact that it produces classes.  The results of a capitalist economy do not, and never can, include equality. What makes the Right oppose capitalism is the fact that groups (racial, religious, etc.) outside their own benefit from it, many to greater degrees than their own preferred group.       

Even more important, they are not criticizing failures of capitalism, but its successes.  For them the rapid global rise in living standards and the extraordinary wealth of even the poorest in the developed world are not phenomena to be celebrated, but mourned.  Ending starvation on Africa pales in comparison to the rise of oligarchs, if you Progressive.  While, if you are Nationalist/Nativist, simply the thought that the coloreds are catching up and that anyone can succeed just like you if they adopt our culture is appalling.  To a degree that is too seldom acknowledged, both oppose capitalism precisely because of its successes.  They prefer systems that they know are doomed to make us all poorer--Communism; Socialism; Protectionism; Segregation--because they are nostalgic for the societies they imagine existed prior to Free Market Capitalism.  Even subsistence living would be redeemed, for the Left, because they imagine it was extremely equal, for the Right, because we subsisted in discrete and homogeneous tribes.   

This is why Sam Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, attempted rebuke of The End of History, was so silly.  You can't have a clash when there are no competitors to the democratic protestant capitalist model.

Posted by at January 23, 2020 7:58 AM