Is capitalism sustainable? Thoughts from Anwar Shaikh

Professor Anwar Shaikh, author of this year’s magisterial Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises, with some brief thoughts on the sustainability of capitalism. For him, its dominant forces, such as the drive for profit, need to be channeled through appropriate policy, and its destructive side effects somehow negated. The aim should be to benefit the many, moreso than in today’s often hugely unequal societies. This is something that I absolutely agree with and I remain hopeful for this kind of outcome, at least in the longer term.

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2 thoughts on “Is capitalism sustainable? Thoughts from Anwar Shaikh

  1. I can offer only a very crude response to one aspect of what Shaikh says in the above clip.

    No system is more advantageously responsive to damage from waste than capitalism. Karl Marx explicitly lists the waste disposal industry as among the most profitable industries under capitalism and stresses the pressure on capitalists to curb waste.

    Which ever economic system we have, we shall have to shape and control it politically. I prefer being required to politically shape and control capitalism to any other economic system. This is why I have come to appreciate Keynes, who, I think, had a similar attitude.

    The overly popular insinuation that capitalism is particularly prone to catastrophes of waste and environmental degradation is contrary to fact and, indeed, logic. I suppose, this is the aspect that I wish to highlight here.

    Thanks to Nick Johnson for having drawn my attention, some time ago, to Shaikh, who is an excellent economist, whose work is well worth studying.

    • Thanks once more for your comments. With regards to environmental degradation, I worked for an animal welfare charity for some years, and it is undeniable that human development has led to habitat loss for many species, which is the main reason for them becoming endangered as their numbers fall. Now one could take a hard view and not see this as a problem for humanity in some kind of evolutionary race. But if various species are part of an ecosystem on which humankind depends, then it is a problem, and is therefore up to us to manage and find solutions to the problem. Or to take another view, why I know you will disagree with, we might think that there is some sort of ‘Gaia’ in which the earth as a whole system responds to such trends in ways which promote some sort of balance, even as humans develop their economies and societies.

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