In our time of unprecedented economic, social, technological, and environmental change, awareness of the need for new economic thinking is growing. Yet most government and business policies are still made looking through a rearview mirror.
This article outlines a new post-capitalist and post-socialist economic system. It describes building blocks for a new economics of partnerism that recognizes that our real wealth consists of the contributions of people and of nature. It demonstrates that to move toward a more sustainable and just system we must implement economic measurements, policies, and practices that recognize the enormous value of the essential work of caring for people, starting in early childhood, and caring for our natural life-support systems.
The Old Economic Paradigms
Most current proposals for a new economics are still framed in terms of the debate between capitalism and socialism – even though both came out of early industrial times (the 1700s and 1800s), and we are now well into the 21st century postindustrial era. On that account alone, both these economic paradigms are antiquated.
But the problem is even deeper. Both these economic systems came out of times when kings, emperors, sheiks, pashas, and other potentates ruled in states and tribes. These were also times when by both law and custom men ruled the women and children in their families. In other words, both these economic systems came out of times when top-down familial, social, political, and economic rankings were still the general norm. And so also was the use of fear and violence to maintain these rankings.
Capitalism and socialism were actually attempts to challenge top-down economic control. But to varying degrees both theories reflected this, perpetuated it.
Adam Smith’s proposed replacing royal/state economic monopolies with the “invisible hand of the market.” But his capitalist economic theory still relied on inequality (the class structure), emphasized individual acquisitiveness and greed (the profit motive), and failed to address the use of violence to protect this new form of top-down economics.
Marx challenged unregulated capitalism and its re-concentration of economic resources in the hands of industrialists and merchants. But he condoned and actually advocated violence, as in “the end justifies the means,” “class warfare,” and his repeated calls for armed revolution. And though his theory of scientific socialism argued that the abolition of private property would eventually emancipate society from all exploitation, oppression, and class distinction, his “dictatorship of the proletariat” (a state ruled by the proletariat or workers rather than the bourgeois or propertied class) followed the familiar formula of oppressor and oppressed trading places – that is, yet another version of top-down control.
Both these economic theories also reflected another established tradition of top-down rule. Neither challenged the then prevailing belief that women should work for free within households, where their labor, as well as all family income and economic resources, are under male control.
Marx and Engels argued that the abolition of private property would lead to women no longer being dependent on the male “head of household.” But they did not challenge this headship, which basically put women in the position of an unpaid employee or indentured servant.
Indeed, when Smith and Marx formulated their theories, the work that women performed both inside and outside households was by law and custom their husband’s property. As late as the close of the 19th century, in most U.S. states a woman could not even sue for injuries inflicted on her. Only her husband could sue on the grounds that his wife’s injuries had deprived him of her services, which were legally his due.
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Tikkun 2018 Volume 33, Number 3:24-31