Opening our eyes to how capitalism began

All systems of inequality and exploitation require violence. When we peer into the past, such a statement is not controversial; it is only when we turn our attention to the present that selectivity is applied.

Capitalism, however, has weaved a vast web of mythology about itself. If we are talking about ancient enough history — say the nineteenth century in the context of the Industrial Revolution — some acknowledgement of brutality is accepted. Inconsistently, the beginnings of capitalism are shrouded in mists of rose-colored haze despite lying further back in time.

Slave memorial in Saint-Paul, Reunion Island (Photo by Tonton Bernardo)

Slave memorial in Saint-Paul, Reunion Island (Photo by Tonton Bernardo)

But think about it: Does the idea that peasants, used to self-sufficiency albeit under often difficult circumstances, would willingly take subservient jobs in inhuman sweatshops make any more sense than today’s apologists who claim that people in developing countries wish to work back-breaking hours for pitiful wages? Horrific, state-directed violence in massive doses enabled capitalism to slowly establish itself, then methodically expand from its northwestern European beginnings.

Peasant uprisings repeatedly broke out across medieval Western and Central Europe, sometimes with explicit demands for equality and sometimes in the form of religious movements challenging the feudal order and, therefore, the Roman Catholic Church that provided the local ideological glue. In response, the church stepped up its Inquisition and its burning of non-conforming women as “witches” as part of the effort to subjugate peasants and town-dwelling working people and to foster divisions within those large groups.*

Entering the new factories at gunpoint

English feudal lords began throwing peasants off their land in the sixteenth century, a process put in motion, in part, by continuing peasant resistance. The rise of Flemish wool manufacturing — wool had become a desirable luxury item — and a corresponding rise in the price of wool in England induced the wholesale removal of peasants from the land. Lords wanted to transform arable land into sheep meadows, and began razing peasant cottages to clear the land. These actions became known as the “enclosure movement.”

This process received further fuel from the Reformation — the Roman Catholic Church had owned huge estates throughout England, and when these church lands were confiscated, the masses of peasants who were hereditary tenants on these lands were thrown off when the confiscated church lands were sold on the cheap to royal favorites or to speculators.

Forced off the land they had farmed and barred from the “commons” (cleared land on which they grazed cattle and forests in which they foraged), peasants could either become beggars, risking draconian punishment for doing so, or become laborers in the new factories at pitifully low wages and enduring inhuman conditions and working hours.

Force was the indispensable factor in creating the first modern working class. Late feudalism was hardly a paradise for small farmers, but Western European peasants, some of whom were independent smallholders, had wrested better conditions for themselves. They had no reason to enter willingly the new workplaces and the Dickensian conditions they would endure there.

The historian Michael Perelman, in his appropriately titled book The Invention of Capitalism, wrote:

“Simple dispossession from the commons was a necessary, but not always sufficient, condition to harness rural people to the labor market. A series of cruel laws accompanied the dispossession of the peasants’ rights, including the period before capitalism had become a significant economic force.

For example, beginning with the Tudors, England created a series of stern measures to prevent peasants from drifting into vagrancy or falling back onto welfare systems. According to a 1572 statute, beggars over the age of fourteen were to be severely flogged and branded with a red-hot iron on the left ear unless someone was willing to take them into service for two years. Repeat offenders over the age of eighteen were to be executed unless someone would take them into service. Third offenses automatically resulted in execution. … Similar statutes appeared almost simultaneously in England, the Low Countries, and Zurich. … Eventually, the majority of workers, lacking any alternative, had little choice but to work for wages at something close to subsistence level.”

Supplementing these laws were displays of military power. A widely quoted document claims that 72,000 were hanged during the early sixteenth century reign of King Henry VIII, throughout which England experienced a series of peasant uprisings. Regardless of what the true number may have been, Henry, who reigned as the enclosures reached their peak, did have large numbers of people executed for being “vagabonds” or “thieves” — in reality for not working.

Force of the state backs the powerful

Systematic state force enabled factory owners to steadily gain the upper hand against artisans, although those nascent capitalists possessed no production innovations at the time. Economist Herbert Gintis wrote:

“Early factories employed the same techniques of production as putting-out [assemblers of finished products working from home] and craft organization, and there were no technological barriers to applying them to these more traditional forms. The superior position of the capitalist factory system in this period seems to derive not from its efficiency sense, but its ability to control the workforce: costs were reduced by drawing on child and female labor, minimizing theft, increasing the pace of work, and lengthening the workweek.”

A process of intensifying exploitation enabled early factory owners to accumulate capital, thereby allowing them to expand and amass fortunes at the expense of their workforces; they were also able to force artisans out of business, forcing artisans to sell off or abandon the ownership of their means of production and become wage laborers. Greater efficiencies can be wrung out through economies of scale, which in turn leads to the ability to introduce new production techniques because the accumulation of capital also provides funds for investment. Such efficiency, in turn, is necessary for the capitalist to take advantage of opportunities for trade.

The gathering pressures of competition eventually ignited the Industrial Revolution and fueled the rise of the factory system. A flurry of inventions useful for production shaped the Industrial Revolution that took root in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century. The Industrial Revolution emerged not only due to technological and economic factors, but also as a result of capitalist class relations that had already become established. The introduction of machinery was a tool for factory owners to bring workers under control — technological innovation required fewer employees be kept on and deskilled many of the remaining workers by automating processes.

As industrial resistance gathered steam in the early nineteenth century, the British government employed 12,000 troops to repress craft workers, artisans, factory workers and small farmers who were resisting the introduction of machinery by capitalists, seeing these machines as threats to their freedom and dignity — more troops than Britain was using in its simultaneous fight against Napoleon’s armies in Spain.

This period coincided with a “moral” crusade promoted by owners of factories and agricultural estates in which the tiny fraction of commons that had survived were taken away by Parliament; the measure of independence rights to the use of commons provided wage laborers was denounced for fostering “laziness” and “indolence” — defects that could be cured only by forcing full dependence on wage work. Organizing, in the forms of unions and other coordinated activity, soon supplanted machine-breaking, reinforcing capitalists’ desire to use technical innovation to make their workforces docile.

Fortunes built on slavery, colonialism

The process of accumulation by European capitalists was greatly accelerated by slavery and colonialism.

Gold and silver were the mediums of exchange in Europe, Asia and Africa, and currencies were based on these metals. Indigenous peoples in Mexico and the Andes were skilled at mining, creating a supply of both metals that they themselves used for ornamental purposes. Silver shipped to Spain from Latin America by 1660 totaled three times more than the entire pre-existing supply in all of Europe. During this period, silver production in the Americas was an estimated ten times that of the rest of the world combined, all of which was shipped to Spain.

This vast wealth enriched the empires and monarchies of Europe, except for Spain — the metals it imported mostly were delivered to foreign creditors, and the rest spent on the Crusades, the Inquisition and importing manufactured items. Spain imported everything it needed while other countries threw up trade barriers and developed their industries.

The brutality with which this extraction of wealth was carried out led to the reduction of Indigenous populations by an estimated 95 percent. The imperial solution to this genocide was to import slaves from Africa. A steadily increasing number of slaves were shipped from the early sixteenth century as plantations grew in size. During the seventeenth century, Caribbean sugar supplanted mainland precious metals as the mainstay of wealth extraction; for three centuries the European powers would engage in continual struggle for possession of these islands. This sugar economy was based on the slave labor of kidnapped Africans; conditions were so horrific that one-third of the slaves who made it to the Caribbean died within three years — it was more profitable to work slaves to death and buy replacements than to keep them alive.

The triangular trade (Graphic by Sémhur)

The triangular trade
(Graphic by Sémhur)

The slave trade, until the end of the seventeenth century, was conducted by government monopolies. European economies grew on the “triangular trade” in which European manufactured goods were shipped to the coast of western Africa in exchange for slaves, who were shipped to the Americas, which in turn sent sugar and other commodities back to Europe. Britain and other European powers earned far more from the plantations of their Caribbean colonies than from North American possessions; much Caribbean produce could not be grown in Europe, while North American colonies tended to produce what Europe could already provide for itself.

Britain profited enormously from the triangular trade, both in the slave trade itself and the surpluses generated from plantation crops produced with slave labor. Proceeds from the slave trade were large enough to lift the prosperity of the British economy as a whole, provide the investment funds to build the infrastructure necessary to support industry and the scale of trade resulting from a growing industrial economy, and ease credit problems — early industrialists had extremely large needs for investment capital and commercial credit because of long delays in returns on investment due to the slow pace of trade transport.

Profits from the slave trade and from colonial plantations were critical to bootstrapping the takeoff of British industry and modern capitalism in the second half of the eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century.

Wealth for colonial masters, poverty for the colonies

The sociologist Robin Blackburn, in his comprehensive study The Making of New World Slavery, wrote:

“Britain undertook a major series of investment programmes: in the merchant marine, in harbours and docks, in canals, in agricultural improvements and in developing new industrial machinery. The profits of empire and slavery helped to make this possible, enlarging the resources at the command of public authorities, [land-]improving landlords, enterprising merchants and innovating manufacturers. Because of the prior transformation in agriculture, and in British society as a whole, colonial and mercantile wealth could be transmuted into capital employing wage labour.”

This extraction process had opposite effects in those colonies undergoing the most intensive exploitation. The Caribbean countries were reduced to monoculture production, forbidden to manufacture anything, because their agricultural products were so profitable. The mainland colonies that would one day become the United States, by contrast, were allowed to develop the industry and varied agriculture that would in the future enable rapid growth of their economy. African development also was stunted because rulers of coastal kingdoms could buy goods and weapons from Europe while profiting by enslaving Africans from other kingdoms; wealth there was used to buy from imperial powers and thus did not stay in Africa.

The widespread use of slave labor also necessitated that further social divisions be instituted, while institutionalizing global trade. Marxist feminist theorist Silvia Federici, in her book Caliban and the Witch, wrote:

“With its immense concentration of workers and its captive labor force uprooted from its homeland, unable to rely on local support, the [Caribbean and Latin American] plantation prefigured not only the factory but also the later use of immigration and globalization to cut the cost of labor. In particular, the plantation was a key step in the formation of an international division of labor that (through the production of ‘consumer goods’) integrated the work of slaves into the reproduction of the European workforce, while keeping enslaved and waged workers geographically and socially divided.”

On such roots is modern inequality built.

* The remainder of this article consists of extracts from the “Explorations in theories of transition to and from capitalism” section of my book It’s Not Over: Learning from the Socialist Experiment. Footnotes omitted. In addition to the works directly quoted, sources include Karl Marx,“Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land”; David Dickson, The Politics of Alternative Technology; Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean; Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent; John C. Mohawk, Utopian Legacies: A History of Conquest and Oppression in the Western World; and David McNally, Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique.


44 comments on “Opening our eyes to how capitalism began

  1. Pete,
    Good post. It’s always good to stay aware of historical facts and events. Flash forward to 2013 and the super-secret Trans Pacific Partnership. Unless blocked by the people, more of what Ross Perot called, “giant sucking sound (jobs)”.

  2. I used to think it was a normal condition of human beings to work – that they needed it to fulfill their social needs. Sometimes I’m amazed with the immense amount of nonsense my head was filled with growing up. People need access to land to fill their basic subsistence needs. Capitalism and colonialism are the story of people being driven off their land everywhere – starting, as you say, with the enclosure acts. John Clare captured the pain of the English enclosure acts in his poetry. George Monbiot wrote a great tribute in the Guardian last year for John Clare day:

    • Alcuin says:

      What an incredibly interesting link, Dr. Bramhall. Nonsense is in the eye of the beholder, to modify a phrase. Certainly the nonsense that our heads were filled with as youngsters was not nonsense to the elite. I’m reading a most interesting book on Africa and decolonialism and the themes raised in Systemic’s post and your link are food for considerable thought.

    • Thank you for sharing that link with us. I confess I am not familiar with John Clare, but George Monbiot’s thesis that the destruction of the commons, and the ensuing environmental degradation, must have have been a factor in his madness appears sound to me. It is also reminds us that the environmental catastrophe awaiting humanity if we continue on the same path is intimately intertwined with the runaway locomotive that is our economic system.

    • Alcuin says:

      I read, on one of the links in the article you provided, that Clare had a drinking problem. After reading Bruce Alexander, that doesn’t surprise me. Dr. Alexander has written extensively on the association between alcoholism and capitalism. It’s an interesting website. You might even know of him, since you are from Washington state and worked in the same field. Dr. Alexander is in Vancouver, B.C.

  3. Alcuin says:

    Perelman’s The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret of Primitive Accumulation has been on my “to read” list for awhile. It was checked out by faculty, who can do so for a three-month period, but it has recently been returned, so I’d best snag it while I can!

    I’m sure you will let us know when your book has been published so that we can buy a copy. Are you offering autographed copies? 🙂

  4. tubularsock says:

    An excellent post. And history has a way of explaining how we got here but from Tubularsock’s experience that adage, “we need to learn from history in order not to repeat it” must be some kind of directive-of-opposite. As a culture we tend to always repeat it ……… over and over and over.

    The American Dream = Slavery!

    Now just how simple is that concept.

  5. Ed says:

    This is an excellent post, but may I suggest turning into a series of posts (maybe one every two weeks) looking at each historical instance in turn? I agree with the underlying theme, and there is more than enough material and the topic is important enough for a series.

    Trying to fit everything into one post, that jumps between Tudor England, the industrial revolution, the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and the slave trade, is a bit overwhelming and also makes it look like you are cherrypicking the historical data.

    In the case of the Tudors, it continues to amazes me that most histories underplay the fact that Henry VIII used essentially the same methods of government as Stalin (with the main difference being that Henry VIII had a less attractive personality). But in reference to cherrypicking, you are looking at a reign of terror under a monster. Things got better under the Stuarts, though their efforts to reign in enclosures and promote religious toleration got them deposed.

    • I like your suggestion, but as the main thrust of this blog is the current economic crisis, I don’t want to spend too much time delving into history, except as it relates to the present crisis. I’ll also note that I compressed excerpts; there is more material before, during and after the material presented above in the original book text.

      In particular, there is a separate, much lengthier discussion of slavery and its context in capitalist development. In turn, all of that is only a small portion of a chapter that attempts to deal with the rise of, and limitations inherent in, the capitalist system. The idea for this post came from an interesting discussion several readers had during the previous couple of weeks, which stimulated me into thinking anew about the violence inherent in capitalism.

      The underlying point is that capitalism is inextricably bound up with violence, which I sought to demonstrate by presenting a sequence of major historical developments. Then, of course, there are incessant wars over markets, colonies and resources, including spasms like World War I in which millions died. If you have knowledge or links to add, please do so — sharing reading tips has become a regular feature of the blog’s comments. So much to read, so little time …

  6. Ieva Zadina says:

    Pete, Thank you for such a clear and eloquent summary of a process that is still being manifested. You too have read, I’m sure, that China is currently bulldozing some 2 million, as I recall, farmers off the land in order to drive them into factories. I want to share a story that has stayed in my mind for many years, namely, a South African friend’s bitter tale of how the British were hated for their sophisticated capitalist ways: in order to force South African farmers to work in the mines they instituted a law that made taxes payable only in British currency — which was obtainable only by working in the mines. At present in the U.S. small farmers are still being driven off the land by government policies and global trade agreements — yet where now are the factories that could employ them?

    • An interesting story; the British had all sorts of devious ways of dislocating peoples, societies and economies in Africa, and elsewhere. Walter Rodney, in his classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, provides much detail.

  7. […] has, throughout its history, built itself off the backs of the weak through dispossession, slavery, colonialism, technology […]

  8. James says:

    It seems that capitalism is the best system for taking down resource gradients in the quickest manner possible. Have a good idea, need some tools, go to the bank and get a loan and put your idea to work eating up the earth’s resources, you’re now a capitalist. (Getting the loan is helped along with a little collateral which is concentrated in fewer hands all the time.) Other systems have the same aim, they’re just not very good at it. We will convert resources into waste until its all gone and when there is nothing remaining to exploit, I’m sure we will exploit each other by some violent or deceptive means. I’m sure the investors lured into the current casino stock markets will be relieved of their savings at the moment most profitable for a few big market movers. In a zero sum game, which is where we are now, the new profit frontier is each other. In the meantime government will make sure organized opposition is met with truncheon-wielding pit bulls and a full blast of carefully crafted derogatory propaganda.

    Banks promote cancer upon the earth, enabling angiogenesis, the expansion of roads and structures throughout the ecosystem’s flesh. They’re looking for good borrowers, borrowers that can return with a pound of ecosystem flesh that can be greedily consumed and washed down with Dom Perignon and a Cuban cigar.

    • Out-of-control growth with no regard for the host is known as “cancer.” That is what capitalism is, and capitalists will try to strip-mine the solar system as their final gambit. If interstellar travel is not feasible, at least the cancer will be contained at the mere cost of human civilization. A small price to pay for a profit today.

    • Alcuin says:

      James, I’ve been doing some intensive reading for the last couple of months on the topic of just how capitalism arose. Your statement about other systems having the same aim but not being as good at it as capitalism caught my eye because of my quest. I posted a piece on my blog that quoted Samir Amin, a noted Egyptian Marxist, as stating that the transition from feudalism to capitalism took place largely because capitalism was a more efficient method of wealth extraction. I haven’t yet read Marx, so I’m not sure what he had to say about the transition, other than that it occurred. You might be interested in reading my post.

  9. Sameer Rao says:

    In many countries politicians/governments ( under the influence of IMF and WB ) are pushing for Foreign Direct Investments to attract capital . Public assets and land is being handed over to capitalists. People are being dispossessed from their lands. Historical facts documented by Perelman is happening in present time. Those who do not participate in these economic activities invite economic ruin by ‘ exclusion’ . Economic activity was only a part of human lives and societies but today that is main purpose of human existence in certain societies ( developed and trying to join the developed).

    State sponsored capitalism as it exists in China is also dangerous to people and society. By all accounts the environmental destruction and economic disparity is happening at a rapid pace there.

    Unless an alternative method of economic transactions is found ,present destructive capitalistic system is going to continue. First step may be to dismantle speculative instruments and institutions of capitalism like the stock exchanges and similar institutions. Major activity in developed economies is speculative financial instruments and many are earning their livelihood by speculative activities! Also currency exchange rates need to be rationalized. Money is a tool of transaction but today it has become resource in itself.

    Mahatma Gandhi advocated ancient Indian system of decentralized self governance called Panchayati Raj in which a village or a group of villages manage their governance and economy. Greed of a few capitalists and their political agents should not be allowed to affect the lives of billions.
    Will the capitalism self destruct and socialism work as predicted by Schumpeter in his interesting book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy ?

    • Excellent question, Sameer. My own view is that, without a global movement intervening to bring about a better world, capitalism will probably slowly decay over several decades, with the occasional uptick and periods of stagnation, probably punctuated by a couple of financial bubbles. But everything of human creation comes to an end.

      What replaces capitalism is of course up to the world’s working people — we can create a world of environmental harmony with economic and political democracy, or we can close our eyes, pretend everything will work itself out and allow the world’s corporate rulers to impose some form of fascism in a desperate attempt to keep themselves on top while grabbing disproportionate shares of rapidly dwindling resources.

  10. A fellow by the name of Silvio Gesell thought of a revolutionary economics associated with the term “free-man”. I read the book one time over a year ago, his idea was people being financially penalized for not spending money. Perhaps some are familiar with Gesell. I remember one professor of economics at a prestigious university saying that Gesell’s economic theory was more consequential than Marx. I share this to point out that economics ideas, new economics ideas, are possible, and that capitalism and Marxism aren’t humanity’s only economic options. Reading Gesell will certainly add to any person’s knowledge who has an interest in economic theory, and may open avenues to new economic thought.

    • Alcuin says:

      Gesell, with whom I am somewhat familiar with, is, in my opinion, in the “if only” camp. If only people were financially penalized for not spending money. It hasn’t happened and I don’t see it ever happening. If only.

      Due to the nature of scholarship in Marx’s day, he inevitably got some things wrong, despite spending most of his life in the British Library, but an awful lot of ink has been spilled since 1883 correcting (or not) his errors. Marx was not infallible, but for anyone to say that “Gesell’s economic theory was more consequential than Marx” strikes me as absurd. That criticism is not directed at you, Jerry.

      It’s very important to keep in mind that there is a very big difference between what Marx wrote and Marxism. Marx is a surname, obviously. Marxism, in contrast, is a belief system based on what a particular person understands Marx to have written. That, of course, explains why there are hundreds of different interpretations of Marx and the endless arguments between the followers of each interpretation. Marx’ central concern was to explain how capitalism worked, not to lay out a road map of how to get to communism. The linear unfolding of Marx’s conception of economic “progress” has long since been rejected but his brilliant insights into how capitalism works will never be.

  11. Alcuin says:

    You opened your essay with this sentence: “[a]ll systems of inequality and exploitation require violence.” While pursuing a thought about something called the “coloniality of being”, I read a chapter of Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s new book, Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa: Myths of Decolonization. In that chapter was a reference to Slavov Žižek’s Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. I often don’t quite know what to make of Žižek, something I no doubt share with many others, but when I read this review of his book, what Žižek wrote made a great deal of sense.

    From the review:

    “Zizek’s central thesis is that the liberal conception of violence is limited to subjective forms of violence, violence which is performed by a clearly identifiable human agent. Zizek claims that what is required to understand the logic and motives behind contemporary acts of subjective violence is to step back from the visible violence which often appears spontaneous and inexplicable, allowing us to ‘perceive the contours of the background which generates such outbursts.’ (p1) What lurks behind the easily perceptible forms of subjective violence according to Zizek are forms of objective or systemic violence.”

    Worth reading and pondering. Note: “subjective” is used to mean “inter-subjective”, not in the commonly understood sense of not-objective.

  12. Throughout the first half of 18th century, France and England battled for control of the Guinea Coast. In Lower Guinea, the British`s main adversary was the Dutch. But when the Dutch Company was liquidated, the British soon gained control of the entire Ivory, Grain, and Gold Coasts. France, Britain’s main adversary in Upper Guinea, soon lost interest because of lack of profits. The sparsely populated Upper Guinea coast did not provide enough slaves. In addition, interior ethnic groups were very hostile to European influence. By the mid-18th century, Britain had full control of West African trade. In addition, the British won the Assiento, the sole license to ship black slaves from Africa to Spanish controlled territories in America, in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. British dominance in the slave trade began a new period of change in the European/African relationship. The English would begin to explore, conquer and rule African peoples. The Age of Trade shifted into the Age of Colonization.

    • Concomitant with this struggle over the slave trade was the shift of the financial center from Amsterdam to London, and with it the location of the dominant military power coinciding with the financial center. The United Provinces (precursor to today’s Netherlands) had a significant merchant fleet but did not have the population base of Britain nor could it compete with the British military. In time, the spread of capitalism to more areas and the increasing complexity of the system required a larger center, and New York supplanted London as the financial center as the United States supplanted Britain as the world pivot, including the crucial role of military enforcer of the world system.

      Thank you, Beverly, for providing more details on this history. The more we learn, the more we have to learn.

  13. […] Opening our eyes to how capitalism began at Systemic Disorder […]

  14. ThePoliticalVagina says:

    Reblogged this on thepoliticalvagina and commented:
    History has great lessons if only we could learn and move on.
    Great blog Systemic Disorder!

  15. ThePoliticalVagina says:

    What I see is that capitalism enslaves and therein lies the roots of suppression of the feminine. Sexism and racism can be no accident under this system. I have always believed the christian church helped spread and endorse capitalism throughout the world. Religion combined with capitalism suppresses and enfeebles the masses. Colonialism and warmongering today is just a furtherance of ancient concepts, to enslave is to amass wealth. It’s just unfortunate if you happen to be at the bottom of the food chain. Alpha male has got a LOT to answer for.

    • Capitalism, or any system of exploitation, can’t exist without divisions – thus, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, national hatreds, xenophobia & etc. will always be fostered by ruling elites. We must unite to build another world, and you are correctly reminding us that those of us with relative privilege within collective struggles have to confront these issues at the same time we construct our popular movements. Unfortunately, all the social ills that permeate society at large infect our social movements — the “second wave” of feminism that arose in the 1960s was, in part, a direct response to the sexism that women faced in the civil rights movement from men who were more influenced by 1950s culture than they cared to realize.

      • ThePoliticalVagina says:

        That is indeed the ‘thing’, reality is defined by the viewer.
        Breaking down the walls of our own personal prejudices doesn’t seem to come naturally.
        Like most things in life – the more you know, the more you realise you need to know!
        Some choose illumination, some don’t even perceive the need for illumination.
        Music, art and the written word are the great enlighteners….
        Feminism (the word) has gotten a bad rap in recent times.
        I suspect not so subtle forces at work twisting and turning it into something it is not until it becomes like Chinese whispers.
        My view of feminism wants the best for both sexes, not at the exclusion of the other.
        My personal experience of males tells me they can intellectually embrace feminism but their conditioning is far more stronger than they realise themselves.
        There’s a bit of work to be done or undone in males and females.

        Thank you for your very thought provoking and validating blog.
        Your words are crystallizing my thoughts.

  16. the Heretick says:

    the Luddites were right.

  17. Joseph Glynn says:

    Great blog.

  18. […] took this message to heart and, hundreds of years later, their descendants have perfected a unique brand of capitalism that has been exported around the globe. In Vietnam, what American bombs and bullets couldn’t […]

  19. […] at SystemicDisorder, Pete Dolack has a take on capitalism that, while it may not be all that new, goes a long way in […]

  20. Amy C says:

    I just need to say what an excellent and well-written article! THIS is the stuff we should be learning as kids and teenagers. I am in my late 30s, and I am just NOW learning all this! How did that happen?!

    • Greetings, Amy. The important thing isn’t the age at which you are beginning to learn but that you are learning. I didn’t really start to learn until I was into my 30s myself. Previously, I certainly had an awareness of how wrong things were but didn’t really grasp why until I became an activist and began seriously reading.

      I often talk to student activists who lament that they don’t know much yet, but I tell them in full sincerity that they know more than I did when I was their age. What matters is that we are willing to open our eyes, see through the endless barrage of capitalist propaganda, and learn to interpret our world so that we can eventually change it for the better. Each of us arrives at this point at different times and stages of our lives.

  21. Arrby says:

    Jean-Bertrande Aristidie, a national leader (at one time), certainly knew what good armies were for. And that was ‘no’ good. The main use of armies (and police and intel services) today is for counterrevolution (which doesn’t require actual revolution). Counterrevolution is war against the people.

    • The October Revolution succeeded because activists turned the Army and in turn were able to disarm the police. In other words, the people were able to remove the state’s monopoly on violence.

      • Arrby says:

        Acknowledged. I would add that Peter Hallward’s book “Damming The Flood” is excellent and informative on the subject of Haiti, which my country (Canada) shamefully helped the Americans and French destroy.

  22. Random Cool Stuff. says:

    Excellent article. Keep up the good work! Anyways, I am pretty sure you are aware that capitalism is based off of this concept called “usury” . Aka interesting-bearing loans. Before the privatization of the commons ocurred in the 16th century, capitalism began with interest bearing loans. I.e. if you burrow 100 dollars, you must pay back more money than you burrowed. If the interest rate for that loan is 6%, you must pay an extra 6 dollars on top of the 100 dollars that you burrowed. For a total payment of 106 dollars. The 6 dollars of interest that you pay is how banks/money lenders make profit.

    The same concept of usury applies to how businesses and corporations make profit. The businesses must earn more money in terms of revenue (or sales) than the cost of producing that amount of revenue to earn a profit. Basically, profit = revenues (minus) the costs of running a business. The concept of “surplus value” or “profit” is derived from the money-lending practices of interesting-bearing loans.

    The practice of making a profit is originally derived from the concept of usury

  23. […] are not central or solely determinative, and a patchwork of other mechanisms like brute force, adoption of fossil fuels and double-entry bookkeeping can assume important roles too (such as by […]

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