The idea of a system outside the capitalist sphere seems absurd and often ridiculed. Quoting the French writer Charles Baudelaire, “The greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world he didn’t exist.” Capitalism works in the opposite way: it convinces us that it alone can exist.
This concept began to be relatively popularized by the book Capitalist Realism, written by Mark Fisher in 2009. In it, the author deepens the idea that, after the “end of history” and the general adoption of neoliberalism as the right course to follow, capitalism has become the only possible political and economic system and therefore the only option for all of us, forever and ever. This way of being is manifested in the culture we consume, dominated by narratives that present the world as it supposedly is, without questioning the structures imposed by the system itself. This leads to a lack of ideological and political imagination of alternatives, as well as a sense of the inevitability of capitalism.
This manifests itself in the idea that capitalism is a reflection of human nature. That we are naturally greedy, competitive, selfish, like all other animals. However, capitalism is not greed, freedom, selfishness or any other adjective we can come up with. These characteristics already existed before capitalism and will exist after. Both these adjectives and their opposites serve to describe the human condition. The existence of avarice is not a sufficient reason to build an economy around it.
Capitalism has survived all this time, and we are told it is simply because it is the order of the world. The development of this system, when we listen to its defenders, rarely takes into account historical circumstances such as the geographic isolation where it took root, the success of liberal revolutions, the absence of ideological competitors at a global level during the period of development, the coincident technological advances that allowed the enslavement of the labor of an entire continent in the process of “primitive accumulation” or the crushing of leftist projects in coups d’état, assassinations and wars in less developed states. Instead, the simple explanation that is repeated ad nauseam is that capitalism works because that’s how the world works. This natural explanation is all-encompassing, has no logical limits and leads one to think of everything in terms of capitalism and business.
Quoting Mark Fisher himself: “It has become all too easy to ignore workers and, in part because of this, they feel increasingly helpless and powerless. The combined attack on trade unions by neoliberal interest groups, together with the shift from a Fordist to a post-Fordist organization of the economy – the movement towards precariousness, production just-in-timeglobalization – eroded the power base of trade unions [e assim, a força de trabalho].” In this way, it is our obligation to fight against this absolute notion and in return create our own realism based on the principles of equality, fraternity and freedom.