Slavoj Zizek provocatively declares that the “marriage between capitalism and democracy is over” in all forms. Is he right? Global markets worldwide are struggling, from Italy and Greece to the United States. Protests reflect this trouble– The Economist recently discussed the “legitimate deep-seated grievances” of protestors, including “higher taxes, less generous benefits and longer working lives than their parents… Across the European Union, youth unemployment averages 20.9%. In Spain, it is a staggering 46.2%.” (The Economist, Oct. 22, 2011). Are these symptoms of a system hobbled by either globalisation or capitalism? What would an alternative to capitalism look like and would it work?
The anti-globalization movement, such as it is, articulates a vision for collectivisation and participatory economics. Capitalism promotes individualism, neglecting to address equality, efficiency, environmental sustainability, or cooperation. An alternative economic system would, ideally, take into account all of these factors. Can we imagine a system in which workers are paid the same amount under a collective council and private ownership of property is eliminated?
I don’t think so. A theoretical alternative to capitalism that eliminates private ownership of capital or deconstructs our hierarchal system of government isn’t viable or plausible. What is necessary, however, is immediate government action to address the symptoms of market failure that we see now. Finding a solution to the crisis in Europe (not abandoning Greece, for a start) and looking for long-term solutions, rather than settling for short-term solutions is key. Should Zizek’s dark prediction come true, we have few very options.