Home Forum Research Capitalism as a cultural construct

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    I started this thread in the Political Economy section, but I think it probably belongs here. I’m a retired industrial scientist (BS chemistry, PhD. chem. engineering). I’ve pursued social science as a hobby for nearly 25 years. I’ve mostly been interested in historical cycles and how society has evolved over time. I’ve written a book drawing on work by dozens of social scientists working in a variety of disciplines that provides an account of how American has come to be in the crisis many see today, and how it could be resolved without tragedy, which is linked here.


    I’ve read some of the CasP material and see that it involves some of the same issues as my research. Unlike CasP, my work is not focused on capitalism per se, though it certainly plays an important role. I do have a construct I use for capital (R) which as far as I can tell is functionally equivalent to the construct use for capital in CasP. But it plays a small role in the overall work.

    The central framework I use is the secular cycle, which is a population cycle in agrarian, pre-capitalist states.  For modern societies it is best thought of as an inequality cycle. The key cliodynamic concept is elite proliferation, which is caused by rising inequality. Too many elites contesting with each other over a fixed number of positions. This leads to increased competition (which manifests as polarization) and can sharpen into conflict (which manifests as social unrest) that, if unchecked leads to civil war, revolution, state collapse, or other nasty outcomes. The potential for this to happen is tracked by the political stress indicator or PSI (invented by poly sci prof Jack Goldstone). PSI can be modeled as an outcome from rising inequality, hence PSI tracks the secular cycle. High PSI today has manifested in unsettling things like the Jan 6 insurrection, Trump, extreme polarization, and talk of civil war. This is chapter 2 in the book.

    To explain the modern secular cycle we need a model to explain how changes in inequality happen. I got this from scientists working in the field of cultural evolution. Here inequality is seen as a proxy for the relative amounts of two kinds of capitalist cultures: shareholder primacy (SP) and stakeholder capitalism (SC). Culture evolves to become better adapted to the economic environment, which is largely the creation of the state. Over 1932-1942 the economic environment changed to make SC adaptive, and capitalist culture became increasingly SC, and inequality fell. Then, over 1964-1986, the environment changed to make SP capitalist more adaptive, and inequality has risen. This is chapter 3.

    At this point I needed an explanation for how the secular crisis can cause financial crisis (since that was the cause of the 1932-42 policy that created SC culture and falling inequality). Hyman Minsky and Steve Keen provided an answer for that. This is chapter 4.

    Now I needed an explanation for how the 1964-86 policy happened. Why did Democratic elites undermine the political dominance FDR had established*, paving the way for Reaganomics, by their choice of economic policy in the 1960’s? This is chapter 5.

    Chapter 6 deals with shorter cycles that explain things like rising mass shootings, the rise of radical social/political movements on both the right and left, and the crazy foreign policy today. The theory for this also comes from cliodynamics.

    Chapter 7 and 8 involve applications of material from chapter 2-5 to several issues today and how avoiding really bad outcomes to the present crisis might be achieved.

    *I note that Republicans today have not chosen to undermine their own political dominance, rather they seem intent on retaining it, making the Democratic choice strange.

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