How Capitalism (With the Help of Technology) Achieves the Goals of Socialism

Yeah that’s a pretty presumptuous title, and I can already anticipate the email I will get about this one. First and foremost, take a look at this wikipedia entry about social capitalism.

Yeah I wasn’t that impressed with it either. Social Capitalism is an odd theory that simply smashes two very incongruent theories together and hopes something better will come from the collision. The other thing that strikes me about social capitalism as a governing force is its idealistic claim that corporations will actually CARE about social welfare, making big investments to advance lower social classes in an attempt to better their own business. In many ways, it reeks of socialism masked as a call to companies to act as if they already exist under socialism in the first place.

But the more I think about it, the more this odd hybrid between left and right wing politics actually makes a little bit of sense.

First and foremost, this is not a call to implement social capitalism in America. That would actually be an ironic cause, because so much of social capitalism relies upon the initiative of companies and organizations to take a developed interest in the environment their business affects. On the contrary, I believe a hybridization of social and capitalist initiatives are actually in development within the American, and even global economy. In many ways, I could actually argue that the social capitalist model is occurring naturally in the free market, though at a very, VERY slow pace, and the socialist influence the market inflicts resonates from technological innovation.

Lets begin with an example. The most obvious case of the natural evolution of social capitalism may be occurring within our most troubled industries. Music labels, and print media companies are two areas of the economy under fire from the innovation of the web. Lets face it, no one buys music anymore, or at least they don’t buy it in a traditional way. Technology has driven down the value of music through the floor in many ways, one being digital piracy, and two being innovation in methods of distribution. The old record labels must fight to survive in a world where the products they peddle all became essentially worthless with the dawn of the Ipod. Storing and transfering music from one device to another is stupidly easy, enabling the web to support massive communities of digital piracy, tearing an even greater hole in the music industry’s financial dam.

I know I mention Lessig a lot here, but that is because his book Remix contains so much insight. Remix outlines a very tragic truth for the music industry: music is just not worth the price consumers must pay to sustain the current business model.

No matter what methods they employ, record labels as we know them are doomed, and its not because of a disappearing morality among consumers, actual value has disintegrated from their product. Its a fight the industry simply cannot win.

The same goes for print. A newspaper is simply outdated in every conceivable way. Printed news exists in a fixed format published once a day. The web can update and change as the market functions. The old stock pages are literally dinosaurs, and anyone wanting to follow financial market must keep a customized stock portfolio that updates in real time. Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur, would like to argue that the death of the newspapers is some kind of global movement away from intellectual conversation, but the truth is newspapers will die due to their instant lack of accuracy. To make matters worse, information now flows in a way that cannot be controlled and filtered by their once gargantuan system.

Now think for a moment about the goals of socialism/communism. Resources and the means of production belong NOT to the capitalist heads of society, but to the proletariat that makes production possible. The entire goal of leftist politics is to dismantle the capitalist system, dislodge the massive deposits of wealth locked into that system, and spread it around to the proletariat masses.

Technology, created by unchained market innovation, is doing just that. The news industry has been largely replaced by the legions of bloggers roaming the web. The music industry bleeds, as artists independently develop business models outside of record label contracts. Take a look at radiohead’s market initiatives, Lil Wayne’s independent distribution of mixtapes prior to his successful album “Tha Carter 3,” and Trent Reznor’s constant barrage of free music via his webpage. Even Them Crooked Vultures responded to an early leak of their album by posting the entire thing on youtube for viewers to sample before purchasing. If you would like to read more about this development in music marketing, this article is a bit old, but gets the job done.

The point is this. Marxist redistribution of market control IS occurring, but not due to government intervention. Technological development and innovation is tearing apart old market forms and replacing them with new foundations built upon greater interaction with the general population. Artists will need to find new ways to make money from their work by offering greater performance experiences that cannot be captured via recording. The media must evolve into content aggregates and stop masquerading as the sole creators of culture. Regular (I.E. Proletariat) people are now the creators of culture, and there is nothing the old guard can do to stop it.

The people are taking control of industry, and this innovation moves in mysterious and powerful ways. Socialism and its goals may come to fruition, but it will come about in a way radically different from the way Marx thought it would.

It looks as if natural, free market forces may create it. Twisted huh?

Looks like that Hegel fellow may have been right with his whole dialectic of history.

One last point. Conservatives love to rail against communism and socialism in a variety of forums, but what happens when the free market system they love and worship create something that looks a lot like the systems they despise?

Any comments?


One Response to “How Capitalism (With the Help of Technology) Achieves the Goals of Socialism”

  1. I think it will be interesting to see how the younger generations, like the Millennials, will influence future politics (or the Marxist re-distribution as you called it) in America over the next ten to twenty years.

    I saw an interesting poll today where Gen Y (Millennials) could throw a huge monkey wrench into current American politics being that:

    1) they’re much more liberal than any generation.
    2) they believe that government isn’t doing enough.

    So not only are they progressive and tired of DC dragging their heels, they actually want big government.

    So from my neutrality standpoint, it will be interesting to see the political pundits and shock jocks spew their dribble while younger people further entrench themselves in their beliefs (and rant about how lame they are on social media sites).

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