Capitalism and the Zeitgeist

Posted by on May 26, 2010 in Commentary, TV and Film | 2 Comments
Michael Moore’s documentary ‘Capitalism: A Love Affair’ kept me up later than intended at the weekend (ironically it was an excessive quantity of adverts, rather than the length of the film, that padded it out until one in the morning). If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend seeking it out so that you can be depressed and amused by some hideous examples of American capitalism’s worst excesses.
On balance the documentary left me feeling optimistic, because I think it signifies the start of a shift in the Zeitgeist, clarification that capitalism itself is to blame for the hitherto non-specific malaise that infuses contemporary society. Until now the best summing up of this pervasive existential angst was to be found on LTJ Bukem’s Earth Volume III, when he noted astutely that the ‘New Millenium lifestyle’ was ‘playing games with people’s minds’. Now we have identified both the villain, the Capitalist system itself, and the solution, a reclaimed democracy that prioritises people over capital.
Our society’s emphasis on individualism often leads us to underestimate the power of the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the times – it being more convenient for us to believe that history is shaped by the actions of individuals. Let me give you an example: Rosa Parks, the black woman who is often credited with starting the civil rights movement in the US. She refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person, as required by the law of the time, and the court appearance resulting from this crime galvanised the oppressed populace into action. To me the identity of Rosa Parks is irrelevant – the groundswell of opinion existed before she made her stand. Had she not provided a focal point for this Zeitgeist then someone else would have done, change had become inevitable. A similar example could be built around Ghandi and the end of colonial rule in India.
I ruminated over these matters as I ran over the hills on Sunday morning. My reward was the crystallisation of an idea that illustrates perfectly the evil of the capitalist system. Consider this: if I had sufficient capital, I would be able to profit – through share ownership and interest on loans – from almost every act of work completed in the world. In doing so I would be actively impoverishing almost every worker. I could do all this without even leaving my gated compound.
Mull this over as the austerity measures bite, as the fruits of all our labours are transferred to the bailed out bankers and the holders of our national debts. Let the Zeitgeist shift intensify……………



  1. Stephen
    May 28, 2010

    i saw parts of this myself…..i agree the the present system is rotten but what i'm less sure about is the alternative. extreme shifts in the way we live to bring back social cohesion and sustainability appeals to me but it simply isn't practical in the current political climate that seems to react like a juggernaught in treacle.

  2. Dominic
    June 2, 2010

    I wonder if we will look back and see the killing of pro-palestinian activists as a turning point….we live in hope.


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