Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Erle Frayne Argonza

To all fellow men and women out there who may have deep fondness for the liberal capitalist model of economic adaptation, I hope that you can make some adjustments in your cognitive banks. Capitalism is not a permanent facet of human life, but merely one among various epochs that will come to pass. Only impermanence is sacrosanct in the cosmos, so please refrain from singing hallelujah to a world system that is on its death knell as I articulated in a previous article.

And please refrain from swallowing hook-line-&-sinker the contentious propaganda of Francis Fukuyama about the ‘end of history’, that accordingly history had concluded with the galvanization of liberal capitalism, that history makes no more sense. Fukuyama’s theory is a slapstick narrative of hyper-valuation of the ‘mad economics’ of late capitalism and hypo-statization of reality that has no relation at all to the real in the world out there. Fukuyama had taken as ‘real’ what is actually ‘virtual’, and froze time much like unto a fairy tale of timelessness, of history-less Nietzschean moment that is fit more for infants than for adult humans.

Fukuyama epitomizes the ‘mad economics’ of all those Pied Pipers of the global oligarchy for whom he works, and his discourse is akin to the ‘mad discourse’ so described by the late Michel Foucault. The ‘mad economics’ of Friedman, Hayek, Fukuyama, and all those technocrats who serve as processors and bagmen for the global oligarchy, is precisely symptomatic of that colossal ailment of a world system, and as we all know, madness can never salve ailments but rather hasten the system’s death. Caput! Blow your horns, prepare dirges to this Dead One!

Unless that you yourselves have become maddened by the seemingly infinite monies flowing unto your purses as you are among the beneficiaries of ‘late’ capital, unless that you are indeed now suffering from combined maladies of sociopathy and schizophrenia, unless that sanity had departed from thee forever, please heed the last plea of your own conscience where sanity had retreated: CAPITALISM IS DEAD! No amount of propagandizing, of contorted interpretations, can ever change the course of history at this juncture, as we are all headed for a TOTAL SYSTEM COLLAPSE in the months ahead. Read that please: MONTHS AHEAD, not years ahead.

What went wrong with capitalism? I’m sure all of you fellows knew what went wrong, do I even need to answer that? Your previous thinker mentors, among economists and sociologists, forewarned you all of the forthcoming demise of capitalism, but you paid nary an attention to those brilliant minds as you were so engrossed in your ‘conspicuous consumption’, behaving more like some infantile EATERS or as anthropoids rather than as thinking and spiritually evolving humans. You are all very much human, so please consistently behave like one, and begin by listening to the Inner Voice of your conscience, for that voice is your soul’s.

Let me summarize the diagnostics, forewarnings and/or prophecies of our thinker mentors from the West, and I’d stress WEST because there are some other thinker mentors from the EAST and SOUTH whose peregrinations are so recondite they are not so easily digestible. Let me just stress the WEST as this is what is common to us all. So let me re-echo the thinkers and their theories:

• Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: The internal contradictions between the private nature of capital (ownership of means of production) and the social nature of production. The ‘crisis of overproduction’ and the ‘law of the falling rate of profit’ are attendant patterns. Social revolution results, then the alternative society will be constructed.

• Max Weber: Industrial capitalism’s granite product, the bureaucracy, led to dehumanization. He never forecast though whether this dehumanizing system can be sustained—but please read between the lines. (His contemporary Emile Durkheim had a similar observation about ‘anomie’ or normless state of urban/industrial society.)

• Thorsten Veblen: The end-phase of industrial capitalism is markedly pathological. ‘Conspicuous consumption’ is the disease of this phase, the toxic behavior from the ruling class that later filtered down to the emerging middle class.

• Joseph Schumpeter: The internal contradiction between the desire for profit and the revolutionary character of innovation. The demise of capitalism will see the possibility of the technical class taking over society and build that alternative system later.

• Daniel Bell: The ‘post-industrial’ society had already been born right inside capitalism. A distinct modality in itself, post-industrialism will eventually prevail in a system that isn’t capitalist (or money economy) but rather knowledge-based. The ‘service worker’ had arrived on the social landscape, the prototype class of the future.

• Theodore Adorno, Jurgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse: ‘Late’ capital is characterized by the pervasiveness of ‘instrumental reason’, where reason is used to justify the non-rational (‘madness’ in Foucault’s argot), where state planning/intervention was infused into a system that scorned intervention.

• Alvin Toffler: Both capitalism and socialism are based on hoarding, both are variants of the same industrial society of yesteryears, both are based on ‘2nd wave’ capital-intensive technologies and non-renewable energy sources. The ‘post-industrial’ society is altogether distinct, isn’t based on hoarding, production-consumption (‘prosumer’) is based on ‘3rd wave’ knowledge-intensive technologies and renewable energy sources, knowledge cannot be hoarded.

I need not articulate further, do I? They all converged on one theme: capitalism is transitory, it bred social maladies (alienation, dehumanization, anomie, conspicuous consumption,…), is systemically flawed, and will be dismantled at sometime in the future.

No matter how delimited their theories maybe, as they all proceeded from certain perspectives (they were all ‘paradigm’-based in the jargon of Thomas Kuhn), they all proclaimed—in either tacit or explicit fashion—the coming demise of the system. They weren’t as silly as Fukuyama who popularized seemingly ‘satanic verses’ (distorted precepts) about a non-changing, permanent economic landscape called ‘liberal capitalism’, but were rather so adroit at social forecasting that they saw a vision of the future as they were articulating on their empirical observations of the present society.

So, fellows out there, prepare for the months and years ahead. We are headed towards those stormy months, years, maybe even decades. How the future society will come to shape is not easy to forecast. “Something blurs the Force, darkens our sight of the future,” declared a Jedi Master in the Star Wars cinema fame. Let me end right here.

[Writ 22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]

Views: 43

Comment by Peter Brünings-Hansen on September 21, 2008 at 6:35pm
For everyone individual that flourishes in capitalism, thousands of others seem left behind. For every entrepreneurial venture that survives the first 5 years, thousands of others never make just half that far. This is the nature of opportunity, drive and development - some have to fail for others succeed. And others need to succeed in order to create the jobs and opportunities for everyone else to pursue!
Capitalism can be seen as the best contemporary macro system we have to allocate resources efficiently and effectively to activities. The selection of these activities depend on individual values, perceptions and behavior exogenous to the system. So as a tool capitalism is the best we got, but as an ideology it becomes dangerous without perspective, clear objectives and rooted values.

Capitalism by itself cannot breed equal opportunity and cannot ensure upward mobility in societies - that is what government are supposed to do.

When governments lift this challenge capitalism can work wonders. In the past 12 years China (in practise one of the most capitalistic countries in the world) has pulled 600 million people out of poverty. India is well under way doing the same stunt and the capitalistic system with gradual opening of markets is the primary tool.
Secondly, the concepts of open source, social production and social entrepreneurship have emerged out of capitalism and today they are heavily integrated in the capitalistic system. just look at Apache, wiki, firefox and IBM's contribution to Linux. News and information haven broken out of the grasp of capitalism, but capitalism made it possible!!
You talk of capitalism as one universal ideology, but it isn't! Each country adapts capitalism in accordance with their otherwise national values, institutions and systems. Capitalism must be a tool and what we are seeing now is not a demise or a beginning of it - it's simply the symptoms of an old squeeking system that desperately needs some creative destruction and adjustments. Again as a tool capitalism is very effective. When quoting all the economists remember the economic cycles. The markets have been going up almost a decade... Uncritical optimism has led to fatal inventions like the Subprime mortgages, and our institutions and legislations have not been adequate in ensuring transparency and sustainable corporate governance practises, now we are learning!
To talk about the ultimate demise of capitalism is accepting it as an ideology. Today we have hundreds of ideologies that guide our use and engagement of capitalism as a tool. We should reinforce them instead.
The market and capitalism are what we use them for.
Comment by Andrew on September 24, 2008 at 5:40am
I think Peter is right on the money, particularly in relation to his comments about capitalism being a tool rather than an ideology.

With respect to any views that capitalism is not the optimal economic system, I, currently living in South Korea, can not agree with that. What I see when living here is a capitalist country enjoys the benefits of prosperity, development, political and economic freedom and social cohesian.

On the other hand consider socialist North Korea, just 200km north from where I live. This is a world where people are starving whilst leader lives in luxury, a country where people are shot by armed guards simply for trying to escape so that they could get food for their families.

For me, I look at the capitalist system of South Korea against the oppressive socialist regime in the North, and I'll take the capitalist system anyday.
Comment by Erle Frayne Argonza on September 24, 2008 at 7:41am
Gentlemen, the issue here is not 'capitalism versus socialism'. I hope you cared to read my other articles. The issue, as raised in the 80s yet, is an 'economy based on hoarding' versus an 'economy based on sharing'. Your ideas about economics are FIXED,narrow and limited, but I do understand where you are. Both socialism and capitalism are just but two faces of the Money Economy, and are based on Hoarding. Diverse alternative systems have already been developed, are being experimented on in Asia, and integrate spiritual & material facets of economic life. Pls read my other articles before articulating critical views, as you may express ideas OUT OF CONTEXT. And pls read the likes of Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, and Asian thinkers such as PR Sarkar, who all expressed the possibilities of building post-hoarding economies. FIXED IDEAS ARE DANGEROUS, pls broaden your perspectives, and we can continue to exchange notes. World War III is now looming ahead, and this is part of a conscious effort to defend Hoarding economics and the oligarchism that it spawned. You do not seem to be adept at the broad issues, sadly, so pls retool yourselves.
Comment by Andrew on September 26, 2008 at 7:53am

I apologize if my comments above were out of context.

As a very new member of this forum, this is the first article of yours which I have read. If I have the chance, I will certainly go back and read some of your previous discussions.

Also, if I have a chance, I would be delighted to read some of the literature by the authors you mentioned, particularly the Asian thinkers. As a young man, currently living in Korea, I certainly hope to broaden my perspectives during my time in Asia, and reading some literature by influential Asian writers would be a wonderful start.
Comment by Erle Frayne Argonza on September 27, 2008 at 9:30am
Copy, Andrew. Nice that you have that Asian mien of humility, pls stay that way and never copy that negative Western arrogant behavior of being 'superior race' or whatever. Copy only the positive Western traits.... For some tips, you see we Asians are among those leading in creating the post-Hoarding society & economy, and we are in a position to enforce them maybe in less than a century to replace the capitalism-socialism limits of Western economic models. Some starting reads there are: Gandhi on 'swadeshi' and his macro-economics; PR Sarkar on Progressive Utilization Theory & neo-humanism; Baha'ullah's writes on economic questions (he founded the Bahai faith); Ernst Schumacher on Buddhist economics & 'small is beautiful' (he seems operating on anarcho-syndicalism though); Sri Aurobindo's economic lessons & his disciples' experiments. Pls look to our own backyard, Fellow Asian, as we got powerful discourses here on economics. Given the crisis of Western economic doctrines & philosophy, it will be our turn to move towards a post-Hoarding economy. Daniel Bell & Alvin Toffler presented critiques of hoarding economics, but the contours of the alternative system weren't as clear as those done by the Asian thinkers.
Comment by Peter Brünings-Hansen on October 10, 2008 at 8:43pm
Dear Both,

First of all, whoever mentioned socialism? I am not talking about socialism vs. capitalism and I don’t even see them as equal systems – so where did that connection come from? Again if you read the input you would notice that capitalism is referred to as a tool (like democracy) not an ideology (like socialism).
Regarding my ostensibly “fixed, narrow and limited” view I am not quite sure what you are referring to. I have not demonstrated my view anywhere other than clarifying the situation with some important details that the “capitalism is dead” prophecy kind of missed or at least didn’t seem to notice. Philosophy and prophecy are stimulating and inspiring as long as they take into account the contemporary reality.
I take great interest in your articles as I like the philosophical aspects and the alternative views that you present very vividly. However, when stating your own “universal truths” and implicitly backing them with quotations from academics and great men, sometimes shaped to the context – I thought the discussion needed a balancing touch of a more pragmatic character.
With that being said I really like your reference to the hoarding economies vs. sharing economies and I agree that the contemporary capitalistic system has much to learn also from Islamic banking and marketing principles. The current crash and credit crunch will hopefully encourage such dynamic inquiry outside the traditional beliefs. Actually we can already now observe in Time Magasine & The Economist that alternative thoughts are being ventured.
In other words this has never been a discussion about ideology for my part at least. I am an observer of reality and in my pursuit of trying to make sense of the current situation I will look at reality and the various explanations, while holding this up with possible solutions including ideas from outside the capitalist vocabulary. Your articles and references are wonderfully helpful, but nothing is so simple that it is all bad or all dead. Ideally I could see another world as well, but you cannot jump from one system to another without making and effort to see the steps in between.
By the way all the Scandinavian systems work with many of the sharing economies principles. But the system is driven by capitalist mechanisms, equal opportunity, free markets. As such the government becomes the well-fare distributing mechanism ensuring upward mobility, social security and free health care and education. Again it is how you apply capitalism that decides the outcome.
Looking forward to be impacted and inspired by your future articles!
Best Peter


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