Capitalism and Democracy

is capitalism the same thing as democracy to capitalism and democracy go together one guaranteeing the other or at least one producing the other what’s the relationship between the way we organize our economy on the one hand and the way we organize our political life on the other first of all yes it’s possible that a capitalist economic system can go together with a political democracy we allow the business community to be a minority of people who are employers and the majority of people to be employees we allow the employers and employees to work together in privately owned and operated enterprises that relate to one another through a market what we conventionally call a capitalist economic system coexisting with a democratic political system and by that we typically mean one in which political leaders are elected in a regular way I’m basically on a one-person one-vote basis if that’s what you mean by the question can a capitalist system coexist with democracy then the answer is yes it can but if you mean that they must necessarily go together then clearly that’s not the case for example in many countries of the world today you have a capitalist economic system but you do not have a democracy everybody doesn’t vote either by law or by fact major decisions are made by leaders who are not elected who are part of a kingdom a royalty system who get their positions because they have some relationship to a ruling family or a ruling clan etc etc for many years the Union of South Africa basically excluded the majority of black African citizens from any real democratic participation you wouldn’t want to call it democratic most people didn’t but it was a private capital economy so do you need to have democracy for capitalism or vice versa and the answer is not at all let’s go a little further democracy let’s look at that for a minute if you mean by democracy just the political system then you have already in a way compromised the conversation democracy is a basic idea if you are affected by a decision then you have a right democracy affirms to participate in making that decision the absence of democracy is when you have to live with decisions over which you have no influence the reason we have elections to vote on political leaders like a mayor or a governor or a senator is the idea that since they make decisions as mayor governor etc that affect us in countless ways we must have some kind of control over them democracy means you have some control over the political system over the leaders the people can in a democratic system change leaders if they are dissatisfied with what those leaders are doing that’s the idea if that’s what you understand by democracy then there is no particularly logical or necessary or philosophical reason why the principle of democracy having power over those who make decisions that affect your life should not also apply inside the enterprise where you work the store the office the factory do we have democracy inside capitalist enterprises no we do not in the vast majority of enterprises the mass of people called employees do not have the ultimate authority over the employer they do not vote on a regular basis as to whether or not they approve of what the employer is doing democracy has been very limited in its application it’s been limited to the residences where we live to the political side of our lives it has been excluded systematically and almost a hundred percent from the economic aspects of our lives particularly where we work and that’s interesting isn’t it because where we work five out of seven days for most of us the best hours of those days for most of us if you count the eight hours we typically work with another hour or two for transportation in another hour or two to get ready dressed in all the rest for work it’s the bulk of our lives as adults that is spent in a place from which democracy is excluded so to say that capitalism is either the same as democracy or that capitalism and democracy go together simply won’t do but the story can be extended let’s take the socialist economies that have existed over the last century the kind in Scandinavia Sweden and so on the kind in the Soviet Union up until 1989 in China to this day in Cuba in Vietnam and those places what have we got there well he’s sort of interesting democracy well that’s argued whether they really have it in their political system or not and it’s kind of arguable whether they had it in their economic system did the workers in a typical soviet factory have democratic power over the leaders at the workplace don’t look like it do they in Sweden today does it look like it either do they have a capitalist structure in which a relatively small number of leaders make all the key to decisions without the mass of people having power over them yeah they do that in private corporations in the West and they do it in Soviet factories and Chinese factories they’re its public officials in those socialist countries who make the decisions but it’s still a minority and the people over whom they rule do not rule over them neither by a regular election nor any other means in Scandinavia they allow private capitalist enterprises as they now do more and more in China and in other socialist countries where did the confusion then arise that looks at capitalism and democracy as if they were synonyms or as if they kind of were twins or as if they were partners that always go together reinforce each other and all the rest I think the answer there lives in a little bit of a history where did capitalism come from in the West it started in the 17th 18th century in what we now call England and from there it spread to Western Europe to North America to Japan and is now global and capitalism didn’t come out of nothing it came out of another system feudalism a system that didn’t have employers and employees didn’t have wages and wage earners it had lords and serfs people were born into the one or the other class of people if you were a serf you worked on a little piece of land that was assigned to you by the Lord you didn’t own it who was the lord of the area where your parents lived who produced you and because your parents were serfs so were you very different system you work part of the time on your own assigned piece of land and part of the time on the land assigned to the Lord what you produced when you worked on your own land you kept and what was produced while you worked on the land of the Lord he got and that was what he lived off of since there were lots of you doing work on his land and just you doing work on your own maybe you your wife or husband or family you didn’t have much and he had a lot which is why they lived in chateaus and the serfs lived in huts capitalism arose out of feudalism but feudalism at the end of the medieval period feudalism had organized itself by then in two kingdoms monarchies in which a king particular family ruled a society and when the King died his son ruled and when he died his son ruled there was no democracy or any other or anything like it a tiny number of people literally made the decisions everybody else was just a subject well the revolution out of which capitalism rejected feudalism in the American Revolution the French Revolution the revolutions of 1848 the great struggles that overthrew feudalism were carried out by people who believed then that capitalism emerging from feudalism was married to tied to was kind of the same as democracy out of monarchy just as capitalism would displace feudalism universal suffrage would displace monarchy that’s why in the French Revolution it was liberty equality fraternity that’s why the French Revolution built up the notion of a parliament that’s won in the American Revolution we wanted to get rid of the King as well as allow private enterprises here in the United States to function in what we would now call a capitalist way the origin of capitalism was woven together with the transition from monarchy to democracy the problem is that this marriage quickly dissolved once feudalism was gone once capitalism had replaced it the need for democracy became how shall I say problematic how in good name could a capitalist be enthusiastic about democracy because of course if that principle were upheld how could he stay in control of his employees he didn’t want any democracy inside the enterprise he wanted to keep his position unthreatened by control from below so democracy became something which you allowed in the political sphere to the extent you had to but not in your own back yard not inside the enterprise that’s why capitalists have a so-so relationship with democracy oh sure lip service on the 4th of July on Bastille Day sure the old ideas are wonderful you celebrate them a little bit like some folks go to church on Sunday to celebrate behavior and attitudes you never see them show any other time of the week but the reality is that capitalists don’t allow democracy inside the enterprise and are rather indifferent to how real it is outside and how do we know well let’s take the United States although I could pick another country too over the last century do we see capitalist buying political leaders all the time we see it now perhaps more than ever now the biggest political leaders usually are major capitalists they don’t have to be bought by them they are them saves a little extra money maybe the relationship between capitalism and democracy has therefore always been ambivalent and big Lluis and in terms of what goes on inside the enterprise downright hostile so no there’s no necessity that cat brings democracy that was a slogan at the time of capitalism’s birth maybe even in its youth but as it matured its interest in its support for and its commitment to democracy got weaker and weaker so that by now it’s too faint to be appreciable to be even visible even on holidays

Maurice Vega

19 Responses

  1. ʔ꧁꧂ *【Ѕӧҫіaʆїᵴ̧m̧】 ๏r 【ӖҲҬӀNҪҬӀӦN】*ᄂ ̅࿙᨞࿙〴༽༼༽༼༼?༽༼ཊཌ༒ says:

    A democracy can coexist with a capitalist system, but will most likely morph into an oligarchy or kleptocracy down the road. Capitalism actually is more efficient in a dictatorship where there is no threat from the mass of people voting to add regulations and laws to limit their exploitation from the capitalists or even vote to change the economic system all together.

  2. The  democracy for all  can only be established,   on the basis  nationalized property form.
    Workers' democracy means democracy for the working classes which means ,that is, they are  managing their own affairs; like  the capitalist classes managing theirs. Bourgeois democracy means, that the  class which owns means of production, that is the capitalist class, Soviet Union, for various reasons could not establish workers democracy and could not resist the pressure upon them from the capitalist west and collapsed         !

  3. Democracy only works in a tight group.
    State Democracy is idiotic, no one needs 51% to tell them not to defraud, cause physical harm, or how to live.
    Capitalism, Monetizing everything, says how much is your mom, and sister, worth to you?

    Socialism says what should we do with all the profits we made?

  4. The employer/employee relationship is the only one, since the time of feudalism, where the "majority" is the "marginalized". Usually, the minority is the marginalized. Capitalism does not hinge on or foster democracy yet it's where it's needed most now.

  5. Capitalism is a near perfect democracy you vote with every purchase government democracies can not compare as you vote once every only 2 to 4 years the people elected can renege on any promises without consequence and considering a business will fail it they don't deliver the good or perform the service or it is fraudulent.

  6. Unfettered capitalism. Not compatible with The Constitution and Freedom and Democracy and in fact is a clear and present danger directly to them therefore, needs to be heavily regulated and controlled. Isnt that exactly what the majority of The Constitution does?…protect The People from capitalism?

  7. We are witnessing the natural results of the "republic" ~ fascism! The republic was created by the elite, the ill-umaNaughty and agents of the King as a deceptive substitute for democracy (as demanded by the People) so that their ilk would always rule…. and they always have! Voting for people to whom we give Our power is not democracy. That makes a mockery of democracy. So, let's call that demockery.

    There is no way for Humanity to unite without a system of REAL democracy: where the true will of the People is the supreme law of the land and where Our own transparent system defines Our true will regarding everything for all to know. The banksters made certain that We will never have a way to unite against them by duping Us into believing that We already had democracy, that it did not work and by stomping out every attempt to create actual democracy.

    When democracy finally emerges, it will herald Our GOLDEN AGE where everything is like most of Us want it. When millions of your fellow citizens peacefully rule the world overtly (in their spare time from their easy chairs), it will be INFINITELY better than the system we've had forever where a small group of psychopaths ruled the world covertly.

    Why don't you help me start democracy? My 2001 attempt is at

  8. HOW ABOUT A MAXIMUM WAGE? I refuse to give up my constitution to be a COMMIE, through the course of history it NEVER WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE. Starvation, dark rulers, death…nope! See V for Vendetta, it is not a nice outlook to be a commie, ultimately the PEOPLE want to be FREE, we are free IF WE HAVE HIGHER STANDARDS.

  9. Democracy is failing in the US because the press is complicit with the ruling elite. This will end in revolution, probably violent revolution.

  10. Capitalism bought democracy a long time ago, the various lobby groups make sure most governments tow the line he who pays the piper calls the tune.
    Industrial democracy does not exist pure and simple, an employee has no input into decision making by an operation, democracy is an illusion in the workplace.

  11. ʔ꧁꧂ *【Ѕӧҫіaʆїᵴ̧m̧】 ๏r 【ӖҲҬӀNҪҬӀӦN】*ᄂ ̅࿙᨞࿙〴༽༼༽༼༼?༽༼ཊཌ

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