Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

A radical dissident perspective on various topics. Comments welcome at

Monday, December 16, 2013

Capitalism and Co-optation

The essence of capitalism is the rule of money, that is, the rule of those individuals and organizations which direct the flow of significant quantities of money. This, in turn, determines what gets funded and what does not, what gets done and what is neglected. We live in a money driven society, individual and organizational actions geared to satisfying the requirements of various markets, activity responding to economic power, the private sector even more powerful than the powerful government modern capitalism requires to achieve business objectives. The US is a capitalist democracy which means that politicians are dependent upon the wealthy and corporations for campaign funding, hence, the capitalists are their real constituency, the voters merely consumers to be seduced through expensive marketing campaigns. Also, important appointed positions of authority usually go to members of the capitalist elite who are then able to ensure that government policy serves business needs.

A critically important feature of modern capitalism is its unique ability to monetize power. He who has the gold rules. This holds true primarily for the advanced economies of the Western democracies where the market and market power has been expanded to include almost all economic activity. The use of money to direct most significant social activity appears to be the most efficient way to run a highly complex society such as ours. The ability to empower activity through funding tends to reduce bureaucratic inertia while maintaining a degree of control at the macro level. A sort of downward delegation of authority with strings attached.

There are several social consequences to this fluidity of economic power, one of which is the capacity of the capitalist system to co-opt the competition. Individuals and organizations seeking to change or ameliorate some aspect of the system require money to fund their activities. Small all-volunteer organizations require little additional funding, however, they usually have limited effectiveness. Larger organizations with at least some paid staff must engage in fund-raising activities to support their staff and other expenses. The “Big Green” environmental groups, for example, although puny compared to big business, nonetheless are very dependent upon significant fund-raising to stay in business. Usually, this involves significant dependence upon major donors and/or grants from grant-making organizations.

Therein lies the rub. In order to maintain organizational staff, facilities and operational activities, the organization must appeal to those with at least somewhat significant financial resources, that is, those most likely to support business as usual in most cases, and oppose significant systemic changes. The choice becomes between financial marginalization versus well-funded accommodation to elite objectives. The professional staff rarely opts to de-fund itself and lose its livelihood, hence, co-optation is the normal course of events in our monetized society. Either that or sustained marginalization. In other words, to be effective, a system challenger or reformer must become a successful capitalist to acquire the funding to effectively challenge the system, the acquisition of which co-ops the individual/organization which then becomes part of the system needing changing. I am referring to the US now. In Third World countries which the empire wishes to destabilize, dissident groups which serve the imperial agenda have access to massive funding as long as they serve their purpose.

Since money is power in our highly monetized society, it should be at least somewhat obvious that the more wealth is concentrated, the more oligarchic society becomes. Conversely, democracy even remotely worthy of the name absolutely requires that the system redistribute income and wealth to achieve a more equitable and wholesome balance, to empower the 99% and limit the power of the 1% and major corporations. Unfortunately, that appears unlikely to occur. Money power controls the doctrinal system and the average person seems incapable of understanding, much less challenging, a system based upon monetary control whereby corporations and wealthy elite have effectively replaced hereditary nobility in ruling society.


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