Capitalism is a dead faith. It was all a deal with the devil, and now it’s collection time. Just check the thermostat.
The state of the Capitalist faith is that:
- It is a faith
- It seemed to work
- It doesn’t work anymore
We’ll go over each point in turn.
What undoes Capitalism is not the moral arguments against it, which are plenty. It’s that it doesn’t deliver plenty anymore. As Jesus said “what is faith without works?” Capitalism just doesn’t work anymore. That’s why it is dead.
1. Capitalism Is A Faith
As Keyzer Soze said, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. In this way, the greatest trick Capitalism ever pulled is that it isn’t a belief system at all.
Mark Fisher called this phenomenon Capitalist Realism
“The widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.”
Sounds like a successful religion if there ever was one.
Even the arch-capitalist Francis Fukuyama wrote about it this way. He wrote The End Of History in 1989, decrying that Liberalism/Capitalism was the one truth faith forever. It’s easy to laugh at him now, but Fukuyama was intellectually honest. He laid out the logical conditions for Capitalism’s inevitable demise.
Fukuyama talked about a liberal democratic state (ie, the White Empire led by America) being bolstered by a state religion which actually delivered material goods. Capitalism is thus the state religion of Empire.
Whereas Jesus asked “what is faith without works?” Fukuyama asks ‘what is works without faith?’
If Capitalism just worked—if it delivered such ‘spectacular abundance’—why wouldn’t you believe in it? Why wouldn’t more and more countries ‘develop’ and get on board the gravy train? Where does the train end? Don’t ask. Next stop is always up and to the right.
And Capitalism really did deliver. You could have and hold VCRs and stereos, modern miracles of all kinds. Moving machines, talking screens, so many wonders. It was a trip.
Fukuyama said “the material world can clearly affect the viability of a particular state of consciousness.” The sheer material splendor of Capitalism made it a compelling belief. Indeed, its materiality made it seem like not a belief at all.
As you can see, whether you believe in this new faith or not is immaterial. Material production creates the faith. Whether you pray up is irrelevant. Everybody pays up.
Whereas the Abrahamic God was a jealous one, the Capitalist god does not care. Capital will happily sell you The Communist Manifesto on Amazon. It will print its rebellions on t-shirts. As Marx and Engels said:
And yet we now read about this great rebellion from within Capitalism. That’s how pervasive the belief is. The mark of a truly successful state religion is that it doesn’t even register as such. It’s just reality. In that sense Capitalism is a faith which just worked.
2. Capitalism Worked
A fundamentally immoral faith based on greed, Capitalism somehow delivered more goods than all goodly intentions combined. Capitalism provided refrigerators and color TVs, microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries.
For early generations this concept of growth seemed endless. You got your “Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free”. Yeah it was a bit uneven, but look at all this stuff! “That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it.”
Soon there would be enough for everyone. Soon we’d be on Mars!
Capitalism was supposed to trickle down to everyone, eventually. Nobody said it’s bring the flood.
People have been talking about deals with the devil since there were people and, presumably, devils. When something’s too good to be true it usually is, but it’s almost always too good to pass up. The great thing about generational deals with the devil is that you can die and leave unborn children to pay.
Marx and Engles wrote that Capitalism was a Faustian bargain in 1850, Tolstoy wrote that it was in 1900s, but it took until Mark Fisher’s generation in the 2000s for everything to really, visibly come undone.
As he wrote:
“Capitalism is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level or ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics.”
And so here we are. Trudging through the ruins and the relics. A literal Disneyland of decay.
I do not mean any of this metaphorically. I’m not saying that Capitalism is ‘like’ a faith. I’m saying that it is, and the particularities of our faith (which make it more ‘real’ than other faiths) will be irrelevant to the future. I’m really just asking you to open your own eyes and look at what’s in front of you. Look above.
Just walk through any major city, look up, and see for yourself. Pyramids, stupas, cathedrals and religious buildings once dominated the sky, but now they cower beneath greater gods. We raise great temples of glass and steel to corporations, banks, and luxury apartment towers. It’s all Capital. To any alien observer it’s clear what we worship. It’s only opaque to us.
We’re so busy getting ahead within this system that we don’t even look at it. We don’t even look up. But now we have to look up, because the sky is falling down. Sick bodies are falling all around us, bombs rain down for no earthly reason; hurricanes, floods, heat waves, it’s all coming down.
We let all this shit go as long as we got ours, but now we’re not getting that anymore. This isn’t just happening somewhere else, it’s happening everywhere. We’re all getting sick, we’re all getting killed, we’re all seeing our planet disintegrate in front of our eyes.
The promise of Capitalism was that one day selfishness would work for you but it’s clear that the deal with the devil has simply run out of time. We were born in the era of ‘fucking around’ and the only inheritance we leave our children is finding out.
Now when we look up, what do we see? Just a big invisible hand giving us the finger, saying ‘fuck you’ to posterity.
Deals With The Devil
We shouldn’t be too surprised. Literally every deal with the devil ends up this way, and we have thousands of stories about it. I guess because we keep doing the same thing.
What did you think Capitalism—a deal to harness the worst instincts of human nature—was? We sold our souls for this shit and now we’re acting surprised to get the bill.
As John Ruskin said (via Tolstoy):
“Now, it is a good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins a day; but if we could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished — sand of human souls — we should think there might be some loss in it also.”
What makes fiction different from reality is that the deal doesn’t happen for one person. It happens across class and generations, which means that you get to sell other people’s souls. And this of course is a price many people will pay. It’s basically free. They’ll be dead by the time the debt it due.
And so we have generations of wealth built on generations of misery. On the backs of the enslaved, on wage slaves, on human, animal, and natural exploitation that continues to this day. We sell other souls to the devil and mortgage unborn children’s futures away.
People have been smashing holy tablets on our heads for thousands of years telling us not to do this shit and enough people simply don’t care. They like worshiping the golden calf, look how gold it is! The Capitalist idol even gives real milk to the many.
It it a deal with the devil? Sure. But we got a good deal.
As Tolstoy said then:
“How wonderfully blind we become as soon as the question concerns those millions of workers who perish slowly, and often painfully, all around us, at labours the fruits of which we use for our convenience and pleasure!”
The sad fact is that the Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy could tell us this, the Jewish anarchist Jesus Christ could tell us this, every prophet in every direction could tell us this, but we did not care. We’re quite happy to not give a fuck about other people and require only the thinnest excuse.
As Tolstoy wrote
“This wonderful blindness which befalls people of our circle can only be explained by the fact that when people behave badly they always invent a philosophy of life which represents their bad actions to be not bad actions at all, but merely results of unalterable laws beyond their control”
In the past this was the divine right of kings, now it’s the economic rights of the billionaires. Same shit, different day, only more naked and shameless now. Past kings at least pretended something was above their heads. Today’s billionaires ride giant phalluses to the edge of heaven itself.
From Icarus to Faust we know how this ends. The devil always gets his due. So here we are, nearing collection day, as the sky turns an ominous hue.
Jesus asked “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Well, now we know the answer. We lose it all.
3. Capitalism Doesn’t Work Anymore
What the analysis of people like Marx, Tolstoy, or Jesus lacked was the immediate reality of climate collapse. They could say that greed collapsed souls, but people didn’t give a shit. It’s only now that greed is collapsing the world that we can see.
Whatever trinkets the new gods of Capital have delivered, whatever wonders they showed us on TV, the old gods of weather are taking it all away. All the cities we built near the coasts, all the food we planted in the fields, all the animals that were our cousins, even all of Capital’s future yields.
All the human sacrifice, all the animal sacrifice, all the natural sacrifice, it’s all for nothing. We worshiped a false god and now we pay.
And so fossil fuels make fossils of our civilization and endless consumption consumes us all. It was all just borrowing against everything earthly and everything godly and now there’s nothing left to give away. So now even the blind can see.
Just look at these ‘climate stripes’ showing temperatures from 1850–2020. Where do you think we’re heading? It’s not the good place.
As DMX said, it’s dark and hell is hot.
When Faith Dies
When Jesus said “faith without works is dead” it’s important to understand what he was talking about. He wasn’t talking about Bavarian Motor Works and WeWork, he was talking about the poor.
Instead of giving a fuck about the poor, we just harvested their misery, used their desperation to get cheaper consumer goods. Instead of preserving the Earth, we have plundered it. The question Jesus asks us is thus relevant. In the end—and we are at the end—what does it profit? Such a faith, without actual works, is dead.
Fukuyama, the high priest of Capitalist hubris, actually explains the end of capitalism well. Speaking of fascism, he said:
What destroyed fascism as an idea was not universal moral revulsion against it, since plenty of people were willing to endorse the idea as long as it seemed the wave of the future, but its lack of success.
In this way, what destroys Capitalism is not moral revulsion against it. It was always revolting. It is its lack of success. If last century was the era of gleeful ‘fucking around’, this is the century of mournful ‘finding out’. As the latter-day prophets said, fuck around and find out.
What does capitalism offer us now? Watching drug companies get richer while millions get sick die? Watching arms dealers get richer while millions get droned and die? Watching billionaires ride dick rockets to the edge of heaven while the Earth is on fire? The point of this bloodsport was that one day we could play. Now we’re simply running out of days.
The promise of capitalism was that there was something in it for me, and it’s being increasingly clear that we’re just the last suckers holding the bag.
And so we increasingly drop it, like a dead faith. What is faith without works? What is faith that actively makes things worse? Such faith eventually loses its illusion of reality, crashes into actual reality, and is done. Capitalism has always been evil, that’s not even what I’m telling you here. My point is that it doesn’t work anymore. That’s why Capitalism is done.
For further reading: How Do We Get Out Of Capitalism? (the way to Acid Communism). Also read Tolstoy from 1900, The Slavery of Our Times is shockingly relevant now.