The results of such revolutions, however, were never the creation of a democratic, egalitarian, emancipatory alternative to capitalism. While revolutions in the name of socialism and communism did demonstrate that it was possible “to build a new world on the ashes of the old,” and in certain specific ways improved the material conditions of life of most people for a period of time, the evidence of the heroic attempts at rupture in the twentieth century is that they do not produce the kind of new world envisioned in revolutionary ideology.
It is one thing to burn down old institutions; it is quite another to build emancipatory new institutions from the ashes.
Globalization has made it much easier for capitalist firms to move investments to places in the world with less regulation and cheaper labor, while the threat of capital flight, along with a variety of technological changes, has fragmented and weakened the labor movement, making it less capable of resistance and political mobilization. Combined with globalization, the increasing financialization of capital has led to massive increases in wealth and income inequality, which in turn has increased the political leverage of opponents of the social-democratic state.
Because of the absence of politics, it is easy to dismiss the escaping capitalism strategy, especially when it reflects privileges achieved within capitalism itself. It is hard to treat the wilderness hiker who flies into a remote region with expensive hiking gear in order to “get away from it all,” as a meaningful expression of opposition to capitalism. Still, there are examples of escaping capitalism that do bear on the broader problem of anticapitalism.
Capitalism as a way of organizing economic activity has three critical components: private ownership of capital; production for the market for the purpose of making profits; and employment of workers who do not own the means of production.
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