Is capitalism driving us crazy? | Susan Rosenthal, MD


Of Susan Rosenthal, MD: “For capitalists to accumulate capital, they must deny ordinary people any meaningful control over their work, their lives or the direction of society. It is a huge challenge to trap a highly social species in such a dehumanizing social arrangement. The capitalists must prevent workers from taking collective control, insist that their suffering is their fault, promote ineffective solutions and treat any protest as criminal or pathological.

Strength alone is insufficient. The workers far outnumber the capitalists, are intelligent problem solvers and run the machinery of society. They must be systematically bamboozled into resigning themselves to capitalist domination. Psychology serves to solicit and control this resignation with the message “Accept what is and we will help you build a bubble in which you can function”.

Deprived of the information, tools and social power necessary to truly guarantee our safety, psychology orders us to build imaginary bubbles that give us the illusion of safety. The individual bubbles confirm our belief that we can only rely on ourselves. Bubbles of friends, family and group form around shared interests or activities. While these bubbles provide a sense of connection and shared reality, they are fragile and break easily. Under the pressure of this pandemic, more and more people are losing their jobs and homes, relationships are broken and murder rate and drug-related deaths are at record levels.

. . . For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors relied on strong social ties to survive. Inequality breaks social relations, so that hunter-gatherer societies fiercely egalitarian. They would not tolerate bragging or arrogance. Their first line of defense was ridicule. If anyone acted in a superior manner, the rest of the group, and especially the elders, would ridicule that person until they showed appropriate humility.

In contrast, capitalists celebrate inequality as a sign of their success in extracting capital. The result is a massive activation of the threat response.

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