When was the last time you read a critique of capitalism that included the word “hope”? Read on, dear reader. But first, let me lay the groundwork with a little story: I support Occupy San Jose more in word than deed, but one day while delivering food and Halloween costumes for the movement’s party, I talked with a few people dwelling in the well-ordered tents in front of City Hall. The participants were grads of “the school of the streets.” They sometimes debated the value of obtaining a GED, but one told me that an activist who had been living atop a light pole for several days was so affected by reading Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change, he decided to enroll at De Anza College, where the book’s author, Cynthia Kaufman, teaches.
Fighting Capitalism: The Practical Way
How wonderful that a book could inspire someone to positive action. I was intrigued. Well, Cynthia Kaufman has a new book that seems likely to have the same effect: Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope (Lexington Books, 2012). She described it to me as a hopeful book about combating capitalism.
So how does this brief (156 pages) but valuable book propose we get past capitalism? First, by improving our metaphors, seeing capitalism not as a monolith with a “command center” that needs to be taken out, but as an infection that has “become entangled with our cells and needs to be fought from within and from without.” Kaufman mentions being influenced by a talk given by the geographer Julie Graham, who suggested a feminist model of “pushing back on practices [we] are opposed to.” “It was exciting,” Kaufman notes, “to see that there are realistic alternatives to capitalism, that we thrive in those alternatives right now, and that society can be transformed to the extent that those alternatives become … more predominant in our lives.” We need to look for “advances” rather than “clear victory.” All the same, our long-term project is “getting rid of capitalism,” and it can be done.