Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Beyond Competition - on the need for a new Cooperative Ethos

A spectre is haunting the planet. Nakedly exposed in the 2008 report of the United States National Intelligence Council (‘Global Trends 2025 – a transformed world’) this is the spectre of an intensity of competition - regional, national and even local – of a sort exceeding that which preceded and precipitated both world wars of the 20th century. This time round and in this new century however, the competition will not just be for markets, mineral wealth, jobs or energy resources but also for such agricultural land, shelter, medicine, food and even those most basic of requirements for human survival – clean air and water.

To recognise how real the spectre is, one need only note that Arab states are already buying up the last swathes of fertile agricultural land as future sources of food – and doing so in African countries whose populations are already starving. Both hitherto dominant economies such as the United States, and those of rising powers such as China and India will not only compete ever-more rabidly for the world’s remaining energy resources but will very likely be ravaged by ecological disasters, whether in the form of floods or water shortages.

The situation is made worse by the acknowledgement of the International Energy Agency, on the basis of new and detailed research, that crude oil output could plateau or 'peak' in 2020, a scenario previously and vigorously denied by governments and oil companies worldwide - principally on the basis of hitherto unresearched forecasts by the same organisation - the IEA. The way the peaking and subsequent decline of oil output will intensify resource nationalism, and its consequences for a global economy dependent on petroleum across a vast range of industries, need hardly be spelled out.

The spectre summed up above places the future of humanity at stake. The challenge it confronts us with demands a degree of genuine commitment to global, inter-state cooperation of a scale and nature never dreamt of or achieved in the past. For the only alternative is a regression to resource-nationalism and competition of the most dangerous sort – one creating a high potential for inter-state conflict wars, both non-nuclear and nuclear. At the same time however, the spectre brings with it the benefit of revealing that which stands in the way of global cooperation – and that which has also played the greatest single role in bringing our world to its current and most perilous state. This is the principle of competition and its ethos – what I call the competitive ethos. It is an ethos that pervades not only global economics but all spheres of life, from politics to religions, education and health.

For it is not only regions, continents, corporations, states that compete with one another, as well as individuals, social castes and classes and specific ethnic or economic interest groups. Even religions – despite their self-proclaimed adherence to codes of ‘ethics’ are in global, regional and local competition with one another, thus falling prey to the underlying global ethos of competition. As for so-called secular Western-style ‘democracies’, let us not forget that these too are essentially competitive democracies, ruled by competition both between and within political parties and their leaderships, together with the social economic classes, strata and interest groups they represent. More fundamentally still, in what sense can any society be regarded as ‘democratic’ in which the powers that exert most influence in people’s lives – those that run the corporations they work for each day – remain entirely unelected or chosen only under the influence of shareholders? Political democracy that is not founded upon economic democracy – by cooperative management of an enterprise or corporation on the part of its employees – is sham democracy of a sort that ultimately is only there to ‘represent’ competing interest groups and to serve and protect their competitive status and ambitions.

Yet it is not only the political and economic life of the West but its entire cultural and intellectual life that is ruled by the competitive ethos – any given theory, model, specialism or solution - whether philosophical, theological, aesthetic, scientific, economic or technological - competing with countless others. And just as economic competition reduces individuals to economic winners or losers, so does intellectual competition come down to the either/or of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The idea that thinking as such, both at its deepest and highest spiritual and scientific levels, not to mention in the immediate spheres of politics and economics, could itself become a cooperative activity - this idea remains almost wholly unthought and unpracticed.

In contrast it, may be argued quite correctly that cooperation is just as much a part of political, economic, cultural and social life as competition, and that ultimately competition and cooperation are not opposites. For even as regards ‘competitive sports’, we know that the most competitively successful teams are those that achieve the greatest level of cooperative spirit and harmony amongst their players. Indeed nothing is more misleading than the identification (not least by proponents of cooperation) of the competitive ethos with the sporting ethos. For in no other sphere of social life does the complex interrelation and essential difference between the competitive and cooperative ethos reveal itself so much as in so-called ‘competitive’ sports.

Where the sporting ethos rules, competition plays its part in achieving an essentially cooperative goal of enjoying the artistry, skills, excitement and sense of fulfilment achieved through the sport itself – an enjoyment shared even by competing teams and players, as well as their audiences. The sporting ethos is lacking precisely where the competitive ethos dominates to such a degree that sport degenerates into winning for winning’s sake. Even where the principal and most intense delight of sporting fans lies in seeing their team win however, we can see this very ‘will to win’ as a temporary release from a competitive economy and social order which generally consigns them to the position of losers. In this sense, even the fans’ ‘will to win’ is an act of defiance against that social order, and one achieved through an intense cooperative sense of unity with one another and their team. And the fact that the even the most fanatical of fans is forced to confront – namely that their team can lose as well as win – undermines the driving principle of the competitive ethos – which is not just the desire but the economic necessity of winning. Thus what works most strongly to undermine the sporting ethos and its enjoyment is precisely its domination by a competitive ethos driven instead purely by commercial competition between sponsors and team managements and lacking any cooperative or sporting character.

Such understandings call for us to explore more deeply the complex relation between competition and cooperation, in particular the way in which cooperation in all its forms and at all levels of social life is employed in the service of essentially competitive goals and purposes – and thus subordinated to the latter. Thus what passes as inter-state ‘cooperation’, whether in the form of international agreements, conferences, treaties or global institutions, turns out in the end to be mere a shifting nexus of tactical or strategic ‘alliances’ or ‘blocs’ - each of which is designed principally to serve, advance or defend the competitive interests of different regions, continents, states - or corporate interests.

In this context it is important also to distinguish what I call cooperativism from its numerous false expressions. These include ‘collectivism’, ‘corporatism’, ‘communalism’ and what is still misleadingly understood as ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’. Neither Soviet bureaucratic collectivism and feudalism, nor the quintessentially fascist forms of nationalistic, oligarchical or plutocratic state corporatism and authoritarian state capitalism we see in Russia and China today have anything to do with ‘communism’ in the Marxist sense – i.e. a true and free ‘cooperativism’ of a sort which necessarily must operate at all levels of society (and not just through individual ‘cooperative’ enterprises forced to operate with the terms and confines of a competitive capitalist economy). Who now knows, let alone recalls or reminds us, that the very definition of ‘communism’ spelled out by Marx in The Communist Manifesto was a state-less society in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”? Hardly a recipe for tyrannical, state-imposed ‘collectivism’.

Indeed the very association of ‘collectivism’ with Soviet ‘communism’ conveniently ignores the fact that the modern capitalist corporation relies for its ‘competitiveness’ on reducing ‘cooperation’ to the establishment of collective agreements with its employees and on a spirit of competitively-driven ‘collectivism’ among its employees. Meanwhile, an elite of capitalist bosses compete rabidly with one another in the pursuit of the individual rewards or ‘bonuses’ to be gained from ‘beating the competition’, raising corporate profits and achieving corporate objectives.

It was Karl Marx who long ago analysed and exposed the inherent counter-productivity of capitalist competition, leading as it invariably did to repeated crises of over-production of similar products - crises made worse by an increasing wealth gap which reduced demand for those products. It is by virtue of the constant need to raise its ‘competiveness’ through an ever-increased productivity that holds down labour costs that large masses of the working population invariably end up unable to afford the products of their own labour - particularly when the glut of those products reduces their profitability, and with it, the wages and/or jobs of huge swathes of employees. And yet competition still remains the unquestioned mantra and holy cow of capitalism, which insists on its absolute necessity as a stimulus for creativity, enterprise, innovation and ‘wealth creation’ – as if the latter was something we owe to unregulated competition between the wealthy rather than to the highly structured, tightly regulated and economically enforced workaday ‘cooperation’ between the mass of corporate wage-slaves, those whose labour alone is the true ‘creator’ of ‘wealth’ – the mega-wealth of the few.

Along with the all-pervasiveness of the competitive ethos goes its unquestioned acceptance as the natural ‘way of things’ and the very core of human nature. Yet despite the ideologies of social Darwinism, Darwin himself rarely used the term ‘survival of the fittest’, never defined ‘fittest’, and was appalled by the abuse of his theories to justify cut-throat capitalist competition. On the other hand, the Russian theorist Kropotkin argued that:

“If we ... ask Nature: “who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?” we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest. They have more chances to survive, and they attain, in their respective classes, the highest development of intelligence and bodily organization.”

If ‘survival of the fittest’ in the cut-throat sense were a natural law or a law of human nature, the logical result would be for one natural species to ultimately eradicate all others and for the population of that species to ultimately reduce itself to the two fittest individuals – and then to only one. The Darwinian account offers no explanation for the wondrous and extraordinary diversification of species, let alone for the miracle of cooperation amongst cells upon which the life of every multi-cellular body depends.

That it is indeed coming to pass that the human species is slowly eradicating all others, and that the world may indeed end through a “war of all against all” which could ultimately leave only one survivor - this is no result of a competitive law of nature but of a purely human ideology and its ethos – the competitive ethos. Yet throughout the evolution and history of both nature and humankind we find ample evidence too, of another, quite different ethos – the cooperative ethos. Hitherto subordinate or subordinated to the competitive ethos, the cooperative ethos is one whose time has now finally come. For our very survival as human beings and that of countless other species – indeed our very fitness to survive – now clearly depends not on competition but on the cultivation and embodiment of a new ethos of cooperation, both within us each and between us all.

It is the affirmation, articulation, exploration, enactment and embodiment of this new ethos of cooperation that I call the new ‘cooperativism’. By this I mean a cooperative principle and ethos to be explored and applied in all spheres and at all levels of human life – political and economic, psychological and social, personal and inter-personal, spiritual and intellectual. For there is another spectre haunting today’s self-fragmenting world of globalised competition. That spectre or spirit is the cooperative ethos, an ethos whose spirit and principles must now supersede the competitive ethos.

The spirit of competition and the impulse to compete – the spirit of the warrior – has long been identified with the masculine, seen as something requiring hard work, grit, fearlessness, strength and determination. In fact this spirit - ‘the way of the warrior’ is by far the easier and lazier spiritual path than ‘the way of the wise’ – cooperation. We let ourselves fall into this easy and lazy way of living and relating – the competitive ethos – whenever we blindly react to events by ‘defending’ ourselves or ‘attacking’ others – whether intellectually or emotionally, psychically or physically, morally or militarily. The aim of the competitive ethos has one single aim – to win – and one sole and essentially meaningless reward, the feeling of ‘winning’. All world views based on the competitive ethos are simplistic, black-and-white ones - lacking any element of ‘dialectical’ thinking that transcends opposites. Their sole fruit is a bipolar world of opposites: of winners and losers, victors and defeated, rich and poor, healthy and sick oppressors and oppressed, perpetrators and victims.

It takes much more effort and strength - even pain – to achieve deep and authentic cooperation. For cooperative activities demand an even harder struggle than competitive ones – not least a struggle with the competitive impulse in ourselves. Competition means struggle with others (even though, as most athletes know, the chief struggle is with oneself, a struggle that in turn requires deep and intimate cooperation with one’s own body). Both competition and cooperation then, involve struggle. Yet the fuits of cooperation far outweigh the struggles with oneself required to attain them. The primary fruit of cooperation is not the single fruit of competition - the feeling of ‘winning’ - but the release of an infinite fount and infinite forms of creativity.

Competition leads only to victory or defeat, success or failure - the pyrrhic victory of one over another. Cooperation on the other hand, leads to something far more meaningful – not the mere destruction or defeat of Self or Other, Us or Them, but their creative mutual transformation. The competitive ethos has its roots in the ego – that part of our identity that sees itself as a fixed identity separate and apart from the world and other people. The cooperative ethos has its roots in the soul – in the awareness of ourselves as a part of the world and as parts of one another. The ego is the fixed aspect of our identity, born of rigid identifications with ‘being’ one thing or another. The soul is the fluid feeling aspect of our identity - capable of empathising, mixing and merging with the identities of others.

From this point of view the flowering of a new cooperative ethos would constitute a fundamental transformation of human consciousness and, with it, the human being’s sense of self or identity. For there is nothing that the world’s growing water shortage symbolises more deeply than the movement from a fixed to a fluid sense of self, and the consequent ability to let one’s consciousness flow into and mix with that of others. The state can be compared to the ‘ego’ of society – more or less unified and more or less authoritarian in relation to the body of society, and more or less competitive with other national ‘egos’. Thus where political leaderships serve fundamentally only as the expression of national self-interest, it is the competitive ethics and politics of the ego they represent – not the soul of their nations and the individuals that compose them.

To be sure it is often the case that as a result of natural catastrophes, a deeply cooperative ethos is stirred up and enacted. Such occasions give us a taste of what can happen when the human soul comes to itself, and human consciousness rises above narrow ego identity. For it is then we see people united in soul and engaged in intense cooperative activity with those they previously felt hostile to or divided from through differences of social, ethnic, racial or religious identity. The same thing can occur at times of man-made wars and crises too, except that here the cooperative ethos that is aroused may be motivated by - or exploited to intensify - competitive hostility towards a real or imagined enemy.

There is no doubt that in times to come, there will be no shortage of competing political leaders ever-ready to egotistically exploit every scarcity, crisis or catastrophe, natural or man-made, in order to scapegoat and heighten hostility towards individuals, groups, communities or nations that bear the mark of a different identity. Hitler was certainly not the first, and will certainly not be the last in a historic parade of such ‘leaders’ or leader-figures. This is why leadership is also so central to the aims of cooperativism. For without leaders who are themselves led by a fundamentally cooperative ethos - placing it firmly above the current competitive ethos (and not simply exploiting cooperation in the service of competition) a cooperative world cannot be created. Such leaders need not be leaders wielding great political, economic or military power, but can be ordinary individuals who - by simply setting an example of and embodying cooperative ways of communicating and relating to others - become models for others, including leaders in positions of power. Indeed each of us can be a revolutionary leader in this sense, seeking and serving to embody a new cooperative ethos and in this way demonstrating its great power and its potential for changing our world.

Revolution means revolving or turning upside down a world in which cooperation between the many has become the slave to competition between the few. Consequently however:

"The revolutionary must always attempt to overcome one’s continual tendency to simply react passively and one-sidedly in the static and contradictory modalities of mere acceptance versus rejection, or the mechanical game of either conformity or destruction, of judging either true or false. A revolutionary transcends judgement as an end in itself and is concerned with transformation, conversion, salvation and resurrection in the deepest sense." Michael Kosok

To be a revolutionary ‘cooperativist’ does not mean just passively ‘getting along’ with others, let alone submitting oneself to or ‘collaborating’ with the powers that be. Nor does it mean competitively rebelling against them, whether in the privacy of one’s own mind or through militant action. A cooperativist is someone who neither substitutes thought for action nor action for thought in living out the cooperative ethos; someone who neither reactively militates against nor merely mentalises that ethos; someone who neither acts or communicates in a blind and reactive way, nor withdraws into silence and inactivity; someone who is not ruled by the fight-flight responses or attack-and-defend behaviours characteristic of the competitor. Instead the cooperativist is someone with the ‘response-ability’ to pro-actively initiate a much more receptive mode of communication than is customary for competitors and their leaders. Pro-active, cooperative speech and communication is rooted in a much deeper mode of listening – both to oneself and to others. Together with this goes a deeply meditative mode of thinking rather than a purely calculative one. This ‘meditative thinking’ (Heidegger) is cooperative by virtue of a way of listening to others that transcends mere ‘agreement’ or ‘disagreement’, acceptance or rejection of their words – but attends instead to what any given individual is seeking to say with them ‘through the word’ (dia-logos), and the degree to which their words themselves are in resonance with the message they seek to convey. Cooperative thinking replaces mere discussion or aggressive ‘debate’ with receptive dialogue in the deepest sense of this word.

In essence, a cooperativist is any human being capable of thinking and speaking, listening and responding, acting and communicating, out of an awareness that transcends identity – not least their own ego identity and personal identifications. For it is only such a new ‘trans-personal’ level of awareness that can allow us to acknowledge the personal ego identifications and beliefs of others without feeling that our own ego and identifications are threatened by them - thus freeing ourselves of the need to competitively defend or assert our own ego-identity in competition with that of others.

Socialist and communist movements have been and still are notorious for their internal divisiveness and competitive factionalism. Yet we must be careful to distinguish rigid, unthinking identification with a fixed or dogmatic ideological stance or position, right- or left-wing, from the necessary element of deep critical analysis and thinking which Karl Marx exemplified. Nor should we confuse his analysis of the inherent contradictions of class society and the inevitability of class ‘struggle’ with ‘competition’ between classes – let alone with the competitive ethos that has characterised the ruling classes of society since time immemorial, in contrast to those forced to cooperate for their survival.

It was Marx’s understanding that it was precisely the competitive principle of capitalism and its internal contradictions that would lead, inexorably, to ever-increasing levels and forms of personal, social, economic and political cooperation on the part of the working class. ‘Struggle’ then is not the same as competition. For again, the struggle to embody and realise a cooperative ethos demands far greater strength than that required to live by a purely competitive ethos. The motivation and strength Marx required to pursue his work did not stem from his being some sort of self-interested author or competitive academic careerist putting forward his theories in pursuit of book sales, status, reputation or ‘prizes’. His genius was no product of the competitive ethos, but arose from a clear understanding of its inherent counter-productivity - and its necessary historical transcendence by a social order built upon a cooperative ethos.

To speak of ‘cooperativism’ rather than ‘communism’, and of the need for a new and cooperative ‘ethos’ may seem to be ‘idealistic’ - in contrast with the usual association of Marxism with a philosophically ‘materialistic’ political and economic theory and standpoint. This is to forget that Das Kapital was subtitled and intended as a ‘A Critique of Political Economy’ [my stress]. What Marx meant by this was not merely a critique of existing political-economic theories but the critique of a society in which economics had come to totally dominate and distort human relations – reducing them to relationships between things (commodities). An ‘ethos’ too is nothing intangible but essentially a relation to other people and the world. The competitive ethos is a relation which reduces other people to an ‘It’ - a mere means to an end. Yet so also do those ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ parties which reduce the individual to a mere ‘member’ of a collective or cog in a revolutionary machine. Thus it is that Marx declared outright in The Communist Manifesto itself that “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.”

The essence of Marx’s thinking lay in effectively deconstructing the very notion of ‘economics’ – instead revealing its roots in relationships of human beings, both to one another and to nature. That is why Marx understood communism precisely as a social order in which economics and economic materialism would cease to be the principle power or political force shaping human relations in the way they do under capitalism. Recognising also that the nature of human beings’ relationship to one another develops on the basis of their mutual relation to nature, Marx also anticipated how capitalism would end up undermining its own “natural conditions of production” i.e., ‘ecologically’ depleting the earth of the resources necessary to sustain it – not least so-called ‘energy’ resources. It is because this is exactly what is coming to pass that what passes as science in capitalism has long since abandoned ‘materialism’ – except in the form of fetishising material commodities - and replaced it instead with what might be called ‘energeticism’, a belief that everything is composed of immaterial ‘energies’. In his ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ Marx set out his opposition to all previous forms of materialism. This included simplistic materialisms of the sort which reduced matter to an object - rather than understanding it as an essentially subjective, sensuous relation to nature and natural phenomena – what Marx called “human sensuous activity”.

Recent thinkers such as Samuel Avery have developed this wholly new understanding of ‘materialism’, arguing that something is perceived as ‘material’ only by virtue of a particular sensory relation to it – one which embraces not only actual but also potential ways of perceiving it. Thus an orange in a fruit bowl is not ‘material’ by virtue of being composed of some invisible material substance or particles – or some invisible energy fields or vortices. It is material because we can not just ‘see’ it but potentially also touch, feel, smell, peel, eat and taste it. ‘Matter’ then, is nothing ‘actual’ or ‘substantial’ in itself but rather a realisable potential for sensuously perceiving and relating to things in more than one way.

The complete failure of even ‘Marxist’ socialists to question not only particular ideological distortions of modern scientific theories but to perceive their essentially ideological character is remarkable. The very idea that modern science is ‘materialistic’ is absurd – for its whole basis lies in taking its own ideal mathematical models and concepts as more real than the actually experienced, sensuous phenomena they are supposed to explain. Modern science, in other words, far from being philosophically ‘materialistic’ is idealistic through and through. Thus while many socialists wish to reign in the profits of the pharmaceutical corporations, they fail to see that the entire ‘medical model’ of illness propounded and practiced is not based on scientific fact so much as on mechanistic concepts and military metaphors expressing a competitive ethos (for example talk of a ‘war’ against cancer or of strengthening the body's immunological ‘defenses’).

A most important cooperative task of Marxists and socialists today is not merely to protect free national health systems from economic privatisation or the greed of the pharmaceutical industry but to challenge the whole 'scientific' model of illness on which it is based – a model which completely fails to acknowledge that health of the individual, mental and physical, is itself no mere ‘private’ matter but above all an expression of the health or sickness of human social relations - not least the economic relations that dominate our global capitalist world and which alone are a major cause of sickness and death. Hence the connection of health issues with the cooperative ethos – which alone offers a model of healthy human relations.

It is also important for Marxists to recognise - as capitalist states worldwide already do - the global nature of the current economic crisis. For it was Marx's clear understanding that only when capitalism had, as it inevitably would and has now done, become a fully global system that its internal contradictions would make it both unsustainable and insupportable - both in itself and for the mass of suffering humanity. If the managerial and political bosses of capitalism are now giving credence to the intelligence of Das Kapital then so should Marxists - not least because this current crisis is - thanks to 'globalisation' - the first fully global one. And if even a report from the national intelligence agencies of the world's greatest capitalist empire can see that the possible consequences of this crisis will exceed even those of the Great Depression - then it is high-time for Marxists and socialists themselves to dust off their copies of The Communist Manifesto and begin to cooperatively think through the implications of this second, more decisively global 'depression'. Already referred as 'GD2' ('Great Depression 2') the acronym can and should read 'GD1' - Global Depression 1. It demands and allows us to reword the first line of The Communist Manifesto ('A spectre is haunting Europe...') and to recognise and respond to the current spectre as a ghost that is haunting not just Europe or America alone but the entire materialistic world of global capitalism - challenging its most fundamental principles and ethos.

Workers of the world unite - you have nothing to lose but your corporate bosses, their blood-sucking banks and shareholders, their ignorant media and corrupt regimes - and the wars they would like you to pay or even sacrifice yourself for.

Appendix: Competition and Capitalism's 10 Big Lies

1. Competition generates jobs. Right?

Wrong. Competition may initially create jobs but leads inevitably to over-production of the same commodities or over-provision of the same services by competing companies, resulting in takeovers, redundancies or export of jobs to countries providing cheaper labour. This is what is casually accepted as ‘the economic cycle’.

2. Competition offers greater choice and diversity. Right?

Wrong. Everyone know the multiplication of television channels just creates more of the same. Similarly competition among manufacturers of cars and most other commodities leads not to greater diversity but to greater standardisation. That is why vast sums of money need to be wasted on ludicrous advertising – to create a grand illusion of distinctiveness between virtually identical products and services. ‘Brand identity’ replaces true diversity and choice.

3. Competition results in cost-efficiency. Right?

Wrong. The pursuit of profit and low-cost production results in the greatest imaginable wastage of natural resources and human potentials. For example the production of one ounce of gold produces thirty tons of toxic waste and depends on labour so cheap it is a form of slavery – thus also wasting the productive human potentials of every worker involved.

4. Capitalism can create full-employment. Right?

Wrong. Capitalism can only ever create anything near full-employment by massively under-employing the potential skills of its employees - instead employing ever-more workers in exportable, low-skill, low-paid work – and employing even university graduates in ‘McJobs’, call-centres and the like. And when capitalism is in crisis the first thing it slashes is jobs - except those of corporate bosses.

5. Capitalism protects women’s rights and the family. Right?

Wrong. An economy such as America’s, in which millions of mothers have to leave their children alone and travel often long distances to do two or more minimum-wage shift jobs – and still not afford decent housing or even medical care - is hardly ‘family friendly’. Protecting ‘women’s rights’ and the family means protecting the right of women to be minimum-wage slaves.

5. Capitalism values the individual. Right?

Wrong. Capitalism buys the individual, and values them according to their market value alone. What made capitalism different from earlier forms of market economy is that people don’t sell products they make themselves, they sell themselves as employees – they sell their bodies, brains and time to be ‘employed’ as instructed by their employer. Capitalism is economic prostitution of the individual.

5. Capitalist societies are mostly democratic. Right?

Wrong. The most politically powerful and important institutions in capitalist states - and the ones in which most people lead their lives - are private companies in which there is no democracy, no elections of any sort and rule is principally by management decree – it is determined by financiers and corporate shareholders.

6. Capitalism could cope with ecological problems with the right will. Right?

WRONG. No gas, oil or nuclear energy corporations would ever tolerate losing their profits to community groups or towns that decided to declare energy independence - to go ‘off-grid’ and generate energy from their own wind generators, solar energy sources, energy-saving programmes or waste burners.

7. Capitalism means a free trade and a free market. Right?

WRONG. Capitalism just can’t cope with global free trade, and ‘globalisation’ is the biggest attempt to restrict it – for example by imposing unfair trading agreements and by subsidised agriculture which restrict imports from and impoverishes developing countries. Capitalism certainly can’t cope with a global ‘free market’ economy – for that would mean free movement not only of capital but free movement of labour (‘immigration’) across countries and continents. Not even the European Union can allow a free market – ever tried getting low-cost mortgages or loans from Germany or lower-cost cars from Europe?

8. Capitalist societies are free societies. Right?

WRONG. Capitalism forces individuals to sell their time to their employers. Freedom means being free to use one’s time to engage in freely chosen creative activity that fulfils an individual’s unique potentials and allows them to contribute to society through them. But the only types of productive, creative activity or work allowed in capitalism are those with market value in the creation of profit for employers. Education in capitalism does not cultivate each individual’s gifts so that it can transform them into a valuable contribution to society. Instead its focus is only on skills with a market value in the creation of profit.

9. Capitalism is wealth creating. Right?

WRONG. Not only is more than 90% of the wealth of capitalist economies owned by less than 10% of the population, but is gained by creating general time-poverty and by exploitation of low-wage labour, both here and in developing countries. The type of labour that has the market value to create most monetary wealth tends to be of a purely self-serving, calculative or mind-numbing type that impoverishes the soul and distorts, demeans or denies time for human relationships. Wealth in capitalism is a ‘Faustian’ bargain – selling all richness of soul to the Devil in order to attain material gain.

10. Markets are needed to know what people want. Right?

WRONG. How about just asking them? Today's information technology provides the perfect means of finding out what sorts of products people want, in what variety, with what new features or changes, and at what sort of prices. Markets only offer them ranges of products to choose from over which they have no democratic choice. Worse still, it uses advertising to make them think they can fulfil their deepest spiritual needs by buying material commodities.