Futuristic Fiction: #Research for #Writers, Part 13, Capitalism.

The introduction to this series is here.

This post looks at Capitalism.

Okay, so what is capitalism? My go-to dictionary (SOED) defines it thus: ‘The possession of capital or wealth; a system in which private capital or wealth is used in the production or distribution of goods; the dominance of private owners of capital and of production for profit.’

Capitalism is at the very heart of the American Dream. But is it sustainable? The basic need of a capitalistic system is that of constant growth. Any ten-year-old child can tell you that physics makes it clear constant growth is impossible in a finite environment. The Earth, the place we live, is a finite environment. And this simple fact is becoming increasingly evident as we use up rare resources and fill the atmosphere with unnatural chemicals and an excess of carbon derivatives. Has the American Dream now become world’s nightmare?

So, what does the future hold for such a system? As it is clearly unsustainable, it cannot continue in its present form. It will either destroy the very essence of its existence through the depletion of essential resources and the excessive use of polluting energy, or it will be marginally modified, creating a slightly less destructive model that will still eventually destroy either humanity, itself, or both.

What forces do you see as movers in making changes to this system? Will disaster be the only catalyst to improvements in the world’s financial system? I understand not all states employ capitalism, but the world’s banking and financial systems are essentially capitalistic in nature, which is why many socialist systems fail to prosper.

Will the majority of the general population finally understand that capitalism is simply bad for us? Will increasing inequality, an inevitable consequence of capitalistic thinking and activity, cause worldwide rebellion, even revolution? Or will those in authority employ harsh methods to quell such unrest, controlling access to information and resources to prevent activity that might disadvantage the elite, wealthy and powerful?
Will individual leaders emerge to overthrow the current unequal system of resource distribution? Is it likely that wars will increase as valuable commodities become increasingly rare? Will people begin to understand that constant, often annual, ‘improvement’ of many technical products is unsustainable and is positively harmful to the world they inhabit? Or will greed, the need to keep up with the Joneses, the false sense of status derived from ownership of the ‘latest’ trend, all combine to prevent meaningful change until the fast-approaching natural disasters occur, leaving Nature to determine the fate of any remaining human population?

These are some suggestions I make for consideration if you’re including capitalism and/or its effects in your story. I’m sure you can think of many more. Please feel free to let us know your ideas, using the comment space below the post.

Part 1, Introduction and Accommodation. Part 2, Activism. Part 3, Advertising. Part 4, Agriculture. Part 5, Artificial Intelligence. Part 6, Animals, as Pets. Part 7, Art. Part 8, Authority. Part 9, Banking. Part 10, Beauty. Part 11, Blasphemy. Part 12, Business.

Research examples:
Teen Vogue
The Balance

22 thoughts on “Futuristic Fiction: #Research for #Writers, Part 13, Capitalism.

  1. The more I learn about the financial, spiritual, humanity of this world, the more I want to book passage on the next spaceship to the world I created in my YA series. I can’t, of course, because it only exists in my imagination, so I will continue to live vicariously in my mind as I write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I empathise utterly, Brenda. I think all of us who are creative, imaginative, and sensitive find some solace in our imagined worlds. They are places of escape from a world that is rapidly becoming a nightmare for those with any real imagination.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The notion of the “American Dream” and American “exceptionalism” is mythology that borders on religious fervency. As earthwalking13, says, it’s brainwashing. Having lived next door to US and within it, also, for most of my life, I am impatient (and quite concerned about) with the impact they keep having on non-Americans, particularly lately with the Cult of Trump. The Rest of the Us need to start separating ourselves and moving forward in our own way, especially around environmentalism, cultural and language protections, education and healthy economics. Diversity allows us to thrive, but US policy, both domestic and foreign, tries to stifle it in the name of money and the absolute faith in exceptionalism (one way = money; ours is the best one way = mono-everything).
    While I see the issues with capitalism, it has its place and is part of a good economic system, along with protections, help and care for the most vulnerable in society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a fundamental problem with capitalism is its reliance on constant growth to achieve profits, Lynette, and this has resulted in a system that sees profit as the ONLY purpose of business. If we are to retain the system, then it needs to be very well regulated and policed in a meangful way. We also need to reduce the size, and therefore the power, of large multi-national businesses that have greater assets than some nation states. We have, in many civilised countries, a sytem of minimum wage in place, but there is no maximum wage to balance this, which results in individuals gaining enormous wealth, and therefore power and influence, at the expense of the poor, who are kept in that state by bad public education, poor services, and inadequate housing. It’s possible that a mix of socialism (not communism) with properly regulated capitalism may work. But I favour the ideas of Yuval Noah Harari with his ‘basic universal income’ as key to creating greater equality and reducing the current nessecity for various benefits. There is a very telling bias in the views of many Govts in their use of language relating to hand-outs of tax payers’ money: when it goes to individuals who are poor, the slightly derogatory ‘benefits’ is used, when huge sums are given to Big Business, they are labelled ‘investment’. But they are both props, and should be labelled the same, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. The concept of “growth” is a constant that is completely unsustainable and so, so bad for the environment. I think there are good elements in capitalism, but yes, it has to be well-regulated and these companies need to be broken up before they become monolithic.

        Canadians are not exactly known for their capitalist tendencies – Americans really differ from us in that way. We do have our grasping greed-driven capitalists, of course, and there are many “capitalists” who just want to make a good living, but it’s not a part of our culture the way it is in the US. For the most part, making use of benefits is not looked down on here at all. We have high taxes and it is part of the cultural fabric to help others. The taxes go in the pot and are for everyone’s benefit. However, I agree that the same terminology should be used when referring to businesses who are benefitting from tax dollars. Good point.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Lynette. Here, in UK, ‘benefits’ are often linked to the word ‘scroungers’, and I think that association is quite widely the case globally. But no one ever seems to complain at the £billions given to companies to help them succeed. Real bias.
          I used to work in the benefits sector and saw the real suffering at first hand, so I guess I’m a little more sensitive to it than many.
          Taxation is a sensible system, but it always makes me smile when people talk about the ‘Government’s money’ as if they generate money, when the reality is that governments are utterly dependent on taxes for their income, so it’s ‘our money’, not theirs!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Accessing benefits is just not seen as “scrounging” here. There will always be those who take advantage (and some did when the gov’t was sending out covid money to those who lost their jobs) but for the most part, people access benefits (to which they have contributed!) because they need to. That’s why we have them. That attitude really irritates me. Sigh.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Irritates me, too, Lynette. There’s a vocal minority of right-wingers who believe that people ‘get what they deserve’ in spite of the abundant evidence that this is simply not true. When I worked for the Unemployment Benefit Service (18 years) I found that around 85% of the claimants were desparate for work. Of the remaining 15%, most were either unable to work for physical or mental health reasons, and only a very few were true ‘scroungers’, yet these were the ones always cited by the complainers. Much of this attitude stems from conservative and religious organisations and it saddens me. At least, in most of my positions in the service I was able to ensure people actually got the benefits they were entitled to.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Yes, I agree. A lot of this stems from conservative and religious notions of hard work making you more godly, or some such silly notion. There’s nothing wrong with hard work, but things happen, and all of us have to look after our weakest and most vulnerable members.

                Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder how “Star Trek” did it? Earth did away with capitalism, but I don’t think there was any explanation on how they achieved it. No one got paid, but everyone seemed to work at something. Then on the flip side, the Ferengi were driven by acquisition of wealth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not so sure Star Trek displayed a world free of capitalism as much as it simply ignored this aspect. I’m a partial fan of the first series (inasmuch as I’m a ‘fan’ of antything, that is). But I’m not familiar enough with the entirety of the series to make a sensible comment here, Leon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In The Next Generation, there were a few references to the doing away with the accumulation of wealth, and that people were working for the good of humankind. They never got into details. Because it is a difficult concept to imagine? Maybe.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s both surprising and encouraging, Leon. The US, which is where the series originated, is the capital of capitalism, and the American Dream is utterly soaked in the ideas of capitalism, so to know this series has made some move away from that nightmare is encouraging. I suspect they never got into details, as you suggest, from a concern that their home audience might have difficulty understanding the concept of a way of life divorced from the profit motive.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Capitalism sounded very promising when the world-population was less. Unfortunately, as our resources are dwindling, it has turned into greed as humans mistakenly think as the only means to survive. We have released the Kraken and eventually, if not tamed, it will devour us.


    1. I fear you are right, Asit. If we, as a species, fail to curb our overpopulation and over-consumption of resources, I see two potential results: either a natural catastrophe along the lines of a serious plague, or outright world war arising from that greed for dwindling resources.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In the US, the brainwashing begins at an early age to worship money. Billionaires, Sports Figures, Hollywood Stars are all treated like God’s. Behind them are the professional classes. Ordinary working class people are taught to hate themselves if they are not rich. And, of course, you must be stupid and lazy if you’re not a millionaire. It will take a long time for people to wake up and see how rabid capitalism doesn’t serve them. It does nothing to advance the “American Dream.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Harold. That’s also my understanding of the system. And the US is, of course, a major player in the world’s financial system.
      When everything is valued only in terms of the dollar, most of what is really worthwhile is overwhelmed by the garbage. And, since wealth in this system brings influence and even power, the voices too often heard are those of the money addicts, the voices of reason, compassion, appreciation of the simpler things in life are drowned out by the clanking of millionaire’s coinage.

      Liked by 1 person

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