james161_Peter MacdiarmidGetty Images_capitalismgrimreaper Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The New Anti-Capitalism

It should not be surprising that our era of rapid technological change has coincided with renewed skepticism of capitalism across Western countries. Yet this time is different, not least because of the rise of winner-take-all markets and a shift in the geographic center of the global economy.

PRINCETON – We are currently living through the most dramatic technological and economic transformation in the history of mankind. We are also witnessing declining support for capitalism around the world. Are these two trends connected, and if so, how?

It is tempting to say that capitalism’s growing unpopularity is simply a symptom of Luddism – the impulse that led artisan workers in the early Industrial Revolution to break the machinery that threatened their jobs. But that explanation doesn’t capture the complexity of today’s movement against capitalism, which is being led not so much by distressed workers as by intellectuals and politicians.

The current anti-capitalist wave comes at a time when free-market neoliberalism and globalization are nearly universally excoriated. Opposition to neoliberalism came originally from the left, but has been taken up – perhaps even more vigorously and rancorously – by the populist right.

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