Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm

At best, efforts by European, American and Japanese policy makers to spur growth may only succeed in slightly slowing down the pace of the approaching western economic depression. The economic woes being experienced by these countries are as a result of extensive rot occasioned by unchecked systemic greed left to fester for decades. Western styled, ultra-individualistic, extremely competitive, consumerism-extolling form of capitalism has been severely discredited and there is need for a new paradigm.

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What is next, is the question no one is asking because no one knows the answer. When it thrived, Western styled capitalism promoted democracy with one hand, but had no tolerance for freedom of thought and speech where its theory and practice were concerned. The subject of Economics ought long ago to have been renamed Western Capitalism, for rather than the genuine exploration of different methods of economic management, starry eyed students were indoctrinated, from high school through Ph.D. level, to believe that there is no other alternative to western styled economic liberalism. In the classrooms, board rooms, and meeting rooms, western economic thinkers and practitioners regurgitated on their narrow economic knowledge, shutting out other voices and patting themselves on the back, in the name of exchanging ideas.

The few peripheral voices from Africa, Asia and the rest of the world who advanced other ideas were mostly ignored. Oblivion, or worse still, public denouncement threatened the western economist who in the point of research stumbles upon, and dares to acknowledge principles, theories and practices – outside of the western liberal paradigm - of economic advancement. To be accepted in the circle of the eminent, one must mouth western styled liberal lexicology, and snub every other point of view. Most importantly, a ‘well trained’ economist is easily identified by his unfamiliar grand sounding words and phrases, especially when in the company of the uninformed, as if to remind them that economists rule the world and are granted access to its inner workings.

It became lost in this maze of civilizational arrogance that capitalism is not a western concept, but a human concept. In Africa, for example, Walter Rodney asserts that before European intrusion in the mid-fifteenth century, state supported economic activities thrived among the populace. He writes that “guilds of merchants travel long miles, criss-crossing the continent, to sell commodities and productions: cotton, millet, wheat, corn, peppers, yams, rice, peanuts, kola nuts, honey, onions; and transformed products such as fine leather works; silver, gold and copper made jewelry; ivory, cloths, basketry, straw hats, iron, lead, copper ware, mats, jars, pots, pans, soap and dried and smoked fish” (Rodney 1974). Capitalist systems of government existed in several societies across sub-Saharan Africa, one example is Opobo kingdom in South-south Nigeria under King Jaja.

But the west would rise to declare itself the “discoverers” of capitalism. Capitalism became synonymous with its western style, and its practice an either /or issue; you either subscribed to western styled capitalism, or you are communist. No; capitalism is a human and not a western concept.

The challenge for the rest of the world who have practiced capitalism since the beginning of time is the promotion of a fresh perspective to this age old theory and practice of economic relations.

Worse still, is the fact that western styled capitalism has been deceptive in its portrayal of its roots. Often left out of the Economic textbooks and minds of students is that the foundation and sustainability of western styled capitalism is accumulation by dispossession; the global poor must often be further impoverished for the global rich to be further enriched. From slavery, the genocide against the Amerindians, through colonialism to the present day era of unchecked economic exploitation especially where clueless leadership thrives, as found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, western styled capitalism has left tales of underdevelopment in its pursuance of increased profit.

Built and sustained by greed, the system soon began to unravel as the habit of exploitation initially targeted at weaker economies became internalized and used to exploit weaker citizens. The collapse of Enron and Worldcom, the Lehman Brothers, the Bernard Madoff and other similar scandals, the Greece and Spain crisis and delusionary bailout, the perpetual Euro zone crisis and so much more all point to the extent of internal decay prevalent in western styled capitalism.

Greed fuelled western capitalism has proven unsustainable, even destructive. But before embarking on a hasty search to anoint a new – Chinese, perhaps - model for the herd to follow, a careful, detailed, and meticulous study of the successes and failures of western styled capitalism must be embarked upon. Yes, it did succeed in certain instances, and these must be researched and improved. The shortcomings, which are numerous, must be discarded as hot charcoals upon one’s hand, but its successes, should be clutched like a piece of diamond.

The new variant of capitalism must be founded on the simple, age long principles of trade. Bring this visible thing and take that visible thing. The deceit of building castles in the air in the name of sub-prime mortgages and related terms must be eschewed. The new perspective of capitalism must recognize the human propensity to cheat when no one is watching, and therefore, ‘someone’ strong and tough must always watch; proactive regulation will be critical, but not to the extent that it will suffocate innovation, creativity and growth.

Very importantly, African countries must quit copying the west. Africans must learn to quit teaching Business and Economics students a failed model that has brought much misery to its originators, practitioners and the world at large. Policy makers in Africa should look to establish indigenous systems of trade that will work to strengthen the existing culture of hard work and brotherhood that thrive across the continent. In short the time has come for a new economic system to emerge, and having been insulated by the global economic crisis, the continent of Africa is placed in an excellent position to lead the rest of the world.

* Chika’s articles can be found at www.chikaforafrica.com



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Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Bamaguje posted on 07-01-2012, 05:28:06 AM
Chika,
Having come to enjoy and respect your write-ups, I am thoroughly disappointed by this crap.
Rehashing tired old discredited hogwash about the 'evils of capitalism', that I thought had been laid to rest with the collapse of communism decades ago.

Capitalism per se hasn't failed, it's just the perverted forms that have failed.
For instance the subprime mortgages which nearly triggered Western financial collapse was caused by vote-seeking politicians compelling mortgaging lending to unqualified low income earners who can't keep up mortgage payments, thereby leading to the bad debts that nearly crippled the Western financial system.

In welfare Europe, the economic crisis of PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) was caused by the welfare state over-reaching itself... providing cushy benefits to citizens the state can ill-afford.
Many of these welfare states fund their social programs with high taxes which in turn depresses economic growth.
So it's welfarism that has failed, or is failing in Europe, not capitalism.

This is part of the reason why Republicans are opposed to Obamacare whose costs would be astronomical as projected by America's Congressional Budget Office.
Given that America's debt-GDP ratio and worsening budget deficits are almost as bad as that of Greece, this is a legitimate concern.

Communist China which you mentioned, was economically sick until the late Deng Hsiao Ping instituted capitalist reforms in the 1980s that have propelled that Asian nation to the economic powerhouse it is today.

Japan's persistently depressed economy has nothing to do with capitalism as a failure, but is largely due to the fact that her population has been contracting for decades, as Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
This means her domestic consumption and demand is too low to support meaningful economic growth.
Her aging population means a larger number of old people on welfare when the economy isn't growing.

In the past Japan's low domestic demand was offset by huge exports.
But much of her traditional export market has been taken over by other newly emerging Asian Tigers - China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia - whose exports are much cheaper as their work force is cheaper.

Having said these, I am not a fan of unbridled Laissez-Faire capitalism.
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Eja posted on 07-01-2012, 08:48:02 AM
Bamaguje, your response is interesting because, for some reason, even though the author scrupulously makes it clear that her criticism is directed at western-style capitalism, you seem to see the article as being nothing more than an attack on capitalism itself.

As she also states, the human economic/social concept that is called "capitalism" was never something that was unique to Europe. Fact is, none of the concepts labelled as capitalism, socialism, communism, or even anarchism were unique to Europe; what exists in European thought (and in some cases, practice) are nothing more than interpretations of concepts that already existed (in one form or another) globally.

In short, what I see the author doing here, aside from correctly identifying western-style capitalism as a failure, is asking us to put our minds into conceiving better ways to order capital, labour, production, and commerce.
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Tola Odejayi posted on 07-01-2012, 11:20:09 AM
Eja,

I don't read many articles on NVS these days, because they're long on criticisms and short on solutions, and unfortunately, this was no exception.

What she calls western-style capitalism has some faults, but she spent more time pointing those out (and bashing the West in the process) than suggesting ways of fixing them.

And let's be honest - fixing these problems is not easy. I personally believe that many non-Western countries would be very happy to practice this 'western-style' of capitalism, because greed is a very human trait.
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Good news posted on 07-01-2012, 12:09:37 PM
I find this article despicable. It assembles together cliche analysis spewed a million times, with I suspect, little understanding of issues at stake. If you hate western capitalism stop wearing cloths or driving cars since they are often made in its spirit. Though you try to quarantine Western capitalism from other forms of capitalism your disdain or ignorance is visible for any free-market enterprise. What would you rather, socialism? A return to soviet socialism? Capitalism is an instinct people across the board - with no specific origin - share, because it encourages the flight of the human spirit to great acts of endeavor.
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Ramses osiris posted on 07-01-2012, 21:37:00 PM
Chika is absolutely correct. It seems like it´s only Eja who really read the article from the beginning to the end. It happens quite often here that people rush to make comments without actually going through a write-up thoroughly and digesting the message.

Actually, Chika already acknowledged that the West didn´t invent capitalism. What she criticized is the "Western styled, ultra-individualistic, extremely competitive, consumerism-extolling form of capitalism" And one cannot but agree. (It would take me a whole article to expantiate on that!)

Indeed, we Africans have to reclaim and re-design our lives. African Capitalism should be different from Western Capitalism because the traditions and values of Africans are different from those of the West - never mind the negative influences that have somehow overwhelmed us..The African concepts of family, spirituality, respect, brotherhood, slavery, for example, are different from theirs - with far-reaching consequences.

And she did offer solutions. And even if she didn´t, she has taken her time to dissect the problem for us. What stops any of us from suggesting solutions, i.e., if we are able to grasp the problem in the first place?

Indeed, we Africans have to reclaim and re-design our lives. African Capitalism should be different from Western Capitalism because the traditions and values of our people are different from those of the West - never mind the negative influences that have somehow overwhelmed us..The African concepts of family, spirituality, respect, brotherhood, slavery, for example, are different from theirs - with far-reaching consequences.

Naija, today, is crippled due - to a large extent - to Babangida´s
implementation of the IMF-induced SAP programs of the West. It´s not for nothing that the West (or at least the Socialist West) pleads for "capitalism or globalization with a human face". They know that "unbridled capitalism" crushes the vulnerable, and that´s the majority in Africa - in Naija, a whopping 70% - 80%.

If we take a holistic view of the West, we´ll discover that they are a very aggressive and "ultra-individualistic" people. That´s what history teaches us. Everywhere they went - Africa, America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia - it was the same story. China had a good reason for building that wall!

In the West, you can even see, hear this aggressiveness in their music:
they took our Rhythm´N´Blues, played it faster, more aggressively and got Rock´N´Roll. They took our Reggae, played it a lot faster, more aggressively and got TECHNO.

There´s a reason we Africans eat from the same plate or pot - even if there are enough plates in the house - whereas in the West, everyone eats apart. It´s no coincidence that a Black man introduced Obamacare (health insurance) for the masses in the arguably richest country in the world while a White man (Mitt Romney) wants to cancel it, if elected. I could give more examples.

What Chika is saying is: we should look inwards, rediscover our values as Africans and not swallow our indoctrination hook, line and sinker. THINK for ourselves, even while adapting (not adopting) seemingly "new" ideas from the West.
We should always think in terms of what benefits our people, and stop regurgitating high sounding, unreflected terminologies like parrots.

That´s the message I got. And I think we should commend Chika
and NOT disrespectfully wave this timely wake-up call off as "crap" or "despicable".

But I guess as long as we call ourselves "Jonathan", "Peter", "Mohammed" and "Abdul", it´s going to be difficult to see the point.
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Eja posted on 07-02-2012, 01:01:41 AM
QUOTE:
Eja,

I don't read many articles on NVS these days, because they're long on criticisms and short on solutions, and unfortunately, this was no exception.

What she calls western-style capitalism has some faults, but she spent more time pointing those out (and bashing the West in the process) than suggesting ways of fixing them.


Tola, I think you will find that the author did suggest ways of finding solutions to what she criticised :

QUOTE:
But before embarking on a hasty search to anoint a new - Chinese, perhaps - model for the herd to follow, a careful, detailed, and meticulous study of the successes and failures of western styled capitalism must be embarked upon. Yes, it did succeed in certain instances, and these must be researched and improved. The shortcomings, which are numerous, must be discarded as hot charcoals upon one's hand, but its successes, should be clutched like a piece of diamond.

The new variant of capitalism must be founded on the simple, age long principles of trade. Bring this visible thing and take that visible thing. The deceit of building castles in the air in the name of sub-prime mortgages and related terms must be eschewed.* The new perspective of capitalism must recognize the human propensity to cheat when no one is watching, and therefore, 'someone' strong and tough must always watch; *proactive regulation will be critical,* but not to the extent that it will suffocate innovation, creativity and growth.

Very importantly, African countries must quit copying the west. Africans must learn to quit teaching Business and Economics students a failed model that has brought much misery to its originators, practitioners and the world at large. Policy makers in Africa should look to establish indigenous systems of trade that will work to strengthen the existing culture of hard work and brotherhood that thrive across the continent. In short the time has come for a new economic system to emerge, and having been insulated by the global economic crisis, the continent of Africa is placed in an excellent position to lead the rest of the world.


QUOTE:
I personally believe that many non-Western countries would be very happy to practice this 'western-style' of capitalism, because greed is a very human trait.


As far as non-western countries practicing the style of capitalism that has dominated the world goes, I do not see how this will be possible. There simply isn't enough resources on this planet to enable everybody to achieve the same standards of living that has been advertised as the end-result of successful implementations of western-style capitalism.

This unavoidable truth lies behind the pursuit of economic hegemony by various 'powerful' countries today.

To "search for another paradigm" as the author suggests is basic common sense - it is what we all need if we are to survive. A model of development that is promises 'growth' based on the ever-increasing extraction of non-renewable resources is quite simply not realistic.
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Prof penkelemess posted on 07-02-2012, 15:46:19 PM
Paradigm ???

Cheick Anta D. didn't tell me

what this could be ..

Prof-you-know-who !!!
Re: Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm
Prof penkelemess posted on 07-02-2012, 15:47:59 PM
and I am sure that

Chika's friend Kagame has

THE

answer.

gerd
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