It is natural to think that the progress of science, technology, and the democratic practices of secular nation-states would put an end to primitive cultures characterized by fear, violence, feudalism, patriarchy, religious conflicts, reactionary thoughts, and all forms of inequality and exploitation. However, everyday realities reveal the exact opposite. The progressive characteristics of anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-feudal democracies have transformed into Westphalian democracies led by market forces during the era of globalization. The era has globalised all forms of inequalities and exploitations. This transformation has resulted in the rise of reactionary nationalism, religious, ethnic, and resource conflicts. The catastrophic climate crises and the threat of nuclear wars seem increasingly real. Reminiscent of colonial practices involving plunder, partitions, and apartheid systems are not merely confined to the peripheries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America but are also prevalent in the capitalist cores of America and Europe.
The Lockean heartland of capitalism, Europe, is facing multiple crises fuelled by imperialist wars and nationalist conflicts. From Brexit to the Ukraine war, Europe exemplifies the fallacies of capitalist consolidation, political stability, and economic growth. It is not capitalist freedom but fear and violence defines everyday life in Europe today.
The normalization of archaic forms of mass violence led by various states and governments, as well as organized and unorganized terrorist groups, represents the bleakest manifestation of a primitive society in the twenty-first century. The ideals of democracy, egalitarian citizenship rights, and universal values of labour and human rights have been buried by Westphalian market democracy in pursuit of capitalist consolidation for profit. The history of capitalism reveals that the pantheons and pathogens of capitalism are opposed to universal and internationalist ideals of justice and humanity, wherein both living and non-living beings coexist in harmony with nature.
The legalization of plunder under the guise of economic free zones and public-private partnerships, along with the lawlessness driven by power and profit, defines governance led by states and governments that defend capitalism and its market forces. This defense comes at the cost of marginalizing citizens and their citizenship rights. The plunder, resulting deaths, and the ensuing destitution in the name of sovereignty and nation-states are becoming existential threats to both people and the planet. The assaults on reason, science, secularism, democracy, and peace are becoming increasingly universal, fostering a landscape where religions thrive with the decline of harmony, human values, and lives.
The politically correct prisms of intersectional idealism have aided in understanding various layers of individual identities, yet they have undermined collective identities necessary for collective emancipation from both old and new forms of feudalism, capitalism, and imperialist values and practices. The pantheons of market culture have fostered the growth of self-centered, pleasure-driven, and unfiltered mass consumerism, where life is defined by commodities and the progress is measured through the recycling of the ‘self’ and ‘the other.’ These arbitrary divisions reduce marginalization to one’s personal pain and pleasure.
The collective punishment of the masses by capitalism and imperialism becomes secondary or meaningless in the pursuit of individual ‘self-pleasure.’ The traumas of wars, religious and ethnic genocides, regional and resource conflicts have turned into distant experiences for ‘others’ or considered as fate-deserving individual experiences. Death and destitution become gifts and are celebrated as individual sacrifices of veterans and victims alike en masse. Suffering is personalized, while dreams are nationalized.
This perverse and distorted discourse dehumanizes lives on the planet, treating them as mere numbers in the grand game of imperialist geopolitics, all to maintain capitalism as an unquestionable and universal system of governance, destroying any form of sustainable alternatives.
Despite scientific progress and technological innovations, the fundamental underpinnings of imperialism’s pantheons and capitalism’s pathogens remain unchanged. Medieval feudalism has morphed into technological feudalism without altering the ideological foundations of feudal systems. Infosys Chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy is advocating for a work schedule of 70 hours per week and 12 hours per day in the name of national development. The growth of corporate profit is not national development. It is called corporate dominance over lives, liberties and individual happiness. The ideals propagated by IT moguls like Mr Murthy are rooted in the archaic structures of feudalism, where workers’ rights were non-existent, and their lives were consumed by work until death.
Similarly, capitalism has utilized science for its advancement without fostering scientific thoughts in society. Scientific consciousness contradicts the interests of capitalism, as scientific knowledge promotes collective consciousness, whereas religion fosters individual realization. Consequently, capitalism has historically formed alliances with religious and reactionary forces throughout its existence. Religion and nationalism persist as the twin pillars of capitalism, offering temporary relief to the inherent crises within the system.
Organized hypocrisy, plunder, and lawlessness define the pantheons and pathogens of capitalism in all its forms. The ambiguities surrounding freedom, the American dream of prosperity, market-driven democracy, narrow individualism, and unrestrained consumerism expose the unsightly realities of capitalism, which fosters all forms of violence to govern society through fear. Religion plays a role in solidifying fear within the individual and community lives across the globe. These dubious narratives shape both the objective and subjective conditions of lives, states, and societies around the world.
Developing alternatives based on reactionary regional or nationalist lines is not a viable path. Capitalism, along with all its processes, structures, and cultures, is inherently global. The fact that it operates differently in various regions does not imply the existence of different forms of capitalism or the presence of democratic capitalism. Therefore, alternatives to capitalism need to dismantle all forms of its pantheons and pathogens by offering a class struggle embedded with peace and internationalism.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Glasgow, UK