105. The original sin of capitalism
If our ecology has no intention other than “ to restore Christian civilisation on its natural and divine foundations ”, the economic and social system of our time, which is meant to be an economic democracy, is born of the Revolution, of “ unsavoury utopia, revolt, and impiety ”. Schumpeter, the Austro-American economist, admits so :
1. “ The capitalist evolution has annihilated, or pushed close to destruction, the institutional developments of the feudal world – the manor, the village, the artisans’ guild. The world of the artisans has been crushed… The world of lords and of villagers has been destroyed, by political measures in the first instance and, in some cases, by revolutionary measures… Along with the disappearance of the old economic organisation there have also disappeared the economic and political privileges of those classes and groups who had been used to holding the dominant role, in particular the landed gentry and the clergy.
“ Economically, this evolution has been interpreted by the bourgeoisie as the breaking of so many shackles and the removal of so many barriers. Politically, this evolution has been interpreted as the replacing of one regime, where the bourgeoisie held a humble position, by another regime much more sympathetic to their rationalist mentality and much more favourable to their immediate interests. Nevertheless… the observer is entitled to wonder whether, in the final analysis, such a wholesale emancipation has been of benefit to the middle class and to bourgeois society. The fact is that the shackles which have disappeared were not only a constraint but also a protection…
“ The king, the centre piece of the system, was king by the grace of God, and, considerable though the economic advantages inherent in the capitalist system may have been for him, the roots of his power remained feudal, not only in the historical sense, but even more in the sociological meaning of the term. We are dealing therefore with more than just a case of dynastic survival. We are dealing with the symbiosis of two social layers, one of which clearly supported the other economically and was in its turn supported politically by the second… This symbiosis was the very essence of monarchical society… ”
2. “ I have described the bourgeois class as rationalist and anti-heroic. In order to defend its position or bend a nation to its will, it can only use rationalist and anti-heroic means… An economic command cannot so easily be transformed into a political command, as could the military command of the mediaeval lord. On the contrary, the ledger book and the calculation of cost prices absorb and isolate those who serve such interests.
“ The conclusion is self-evident :… The bourgeois class is ill equipped to confront either internal or international problems, such as any country of importance must normally expect. The bourgeoisie themselves are well aware of this inadequacy, despite all the phraseology used to disguise the fact, and the same goes for the masses. Within a protective framework, not composed of bourgeois materials, the bourgeoisie can gain political success… especially in opposition… But for want of being protected by some non-bourgeois group, the bourgeoisie is politically disarmed and incapable, not only of directing the nation, but even of defending its own class interests : which amounts to saying that it needs a master. ”
3. “ Now, the capitalist process, as much by its economic mechanism as by its psycho-socio-biological consequences, has eliminated this protective master or, as in the United States, has never given it, or any institution filling the same role, the chance of affirming itself.
“ The capitalist evolution causes not only the disappearance of the King by the Grace of God but also of the political ramparts which, had they been able to have been maintained, would have been constituted by the village and the artisan’s guild. Of course, neither of these institutions could have been maintained in the exact form in which they were found by capitalism. All the same, capitalist politics pushed their destruction much further than was necessary… The peasant had no choice but to accept the benefits of primitive liberalism… and all the individualist rope necessary for him to hang himself.
“ By breaking the pre-capitalist social framework, capitalism therefore broke not only the barriers that hindered its progress, but also the buttresses that prevented it from collapsing. This process of destruction, deeply disturbing in its character of inexorable fatality, consisted not only in pruning the institutional dead wood, but also in eliminating those partners of the capitalist class whose symbiosis with it was an essential element in stabilising capitalism…
“ I am inclined to consider this symbiosis of the classes as the rule rather than the exception… At the very least this rule operated for six thousand years, that is, from the day when the first labourers became the subjects of the nomadic horsemen… ”
(Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,
12. The walls are crumbling, 2. The destruction of the protective layers)
It is because all its power is based on the 1789 Revolution and the destruction of religion – as well as of the monarchy, the elites, the military class, trade and village communities – that capitalism is unable to carry out reforms that would change its nature. Faced with increasingly serious crises that follow each other, it is unable to do anything other than to feed the monster who will devour it, in order to push back the fatal day of reckoning.