IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Capitalism and peace

Where I live there is a general strike (over the cost of living, and related matters) going on, so this topic came to mind.  Many (for instance Marx) have argued that economics, or the system of production in a country (or the world) is the cause of the most basic conflicts; ie those among the classes.  Others (ie economic liberals) have argued that free market capitalism is the engine of wealth, progress and, therefore, peace.  At the moment, in the midst of a world economic crisis, it is easy to fault capitalism and to see it as a system that favors the accumulation of wealth by some, and the exploitation of others.  This seems even more probable in our era of “globalization” when it is clear that capital is much more mobile than labor, since capital moves around the planet at the speed of light, while labour, obviously, cannot be so mobile.

Capitalism is an economic system, a tool.  It can be used for selfish ends, to create and perpetuate social inequality. While complete social equality is neither practical nor desirable, extremes of wealth and poverty are certainly linked to social tensions that lead to violent conflict.  However, the impact of capitalism on society depends on decisions by individuals and groups, decisions informed by values.  In recent decades we have seen the emergence of “conscious capitalism” or “conscious business”, which highlights the need for ecological concerns and questions of social justice and welfare to figure into business planning and production.  The brief Wikipedia article on the topic explains”

“Conscious Business is a term used to describe a business enterprise that seeks to be aware of the effects of its actions, and to consciously affect human beings and the environment in a beneficial way. Conscious Business also refers to a movement towards “Value’s based” economic value, where “Value’s” represent social and environmental concerns globally as well as locally.”

There are many views about this topic, and I am not, as usual, promoting a specific agenda.  However, I think it is important to understand that in the economic realm, as in all other areas, we (understood as both producers and consumers) have choice, and our values (and the degree of commitment we have to our values) influence these choices.  It strikes me as very positive that we are now more aware of the conditions in the factories that produce, for example, our clothes, and that we are concerned about what happens to the waste produced by those, and other factories, even if they are located far away.

In other words, the values that facilitate and sustain peace, need to find expression in our economic activity, and there is mounting evidence that even short term prosperity can be compatible with the promotion of these values.

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January 21, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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