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Capital Has Always Ruled

by Dickson Igwe
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Dickson Igwe, resident socio-economic and political columnist

The hegemony of capital is nothing new. From the earliest days, in fact, the start of written history, the person who controlled land, tools for hunting, and implements for ploughing soil, and the most basic items for life- all forms of capital- ruled the tribe. Then, with the emergence of community from Stone Age cave dwelling, and hunting and gathering, to communal living, the village leader or chief controlled food and water distribution, and basic trading. This was essentially the start of trade by barter.

With the transformation of community into larger more complex society, the tools and implements created by man evolved to increase the quantity and quality of food, water, heating, clothing, and shelter. The rule of capital, even at its most primitive – the horse and cart- empowered landowners, who in turn paid a proportion in crops and livestock to kings and noblemen, for protection from hordes that dwelled outside the walls of the village and town, and sometimes within. That was the beginning of government, and the establishment of law and order.

Medieval society – the Middle Ages- was socially and economically about the ownership of land and the peasant labor that inhabited and worked that land.  Land, livestock, implements, and peasant labor was capital that generated wealth for the kings, lords, and noblemen of the time

The struggle between the haves and have not’s became a feature of history as communities increased in size and new skills and markets developed. The slave and peasant as suffering underdog is part of the narrative of history. The underdog of ages past has evolved into the working classes in today’s West, and the impoverished masses in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia. 

The ‘evils’ of social inequality are age old. The tussle between capitalism and socialism – capital and social equality- has been an ongoing story, especially, from the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, through to the age of industrialization, and this new age of knowledge and information. However, capital in the 21st Century has won that war. Capitalism has prevailed over opposing ideologies and cultures. Capital rules. That is the cold reality.

Today, capital has been so successful that the fear of the capitalist is that the capital mix may no longer require the human element. Science and technology may replace that human element: the debate on Artificial Intelligence embodies that fear.

The conflict between capital, and the drive for greater human equality by those on the outside of capital ownership, has driven modern history from the end of feudalism and absolute monarchy to the present day science and technology epoch, with its relatively complex forms of governance and human engagement. In fact, the Wars of the Twentieth Century including the Cold war have as underlying theme the power of capital to drive international hegemony and geopolitics.

Post the Industrial Revolution with the rise of the nation state and modern republics, the Bolshevik Revolution and communism, war and peace in the twentieth century, social capital, Liberal Economics, and now the rise of the Multinational Corporation, tech, to the rule of the billionaire, capitalism is triumphant.

Contemporary economics news has centered on the question of whether there is a fundamental flaw in capitalist society, owing to concerns about growing inequality. However, the inequality question has become mere rhetoric. History has been essentially the story of capital and its evolution in its various forms. Inequality and the struggle for greater equality by humanity is a feature of written history. History is nihilistic.

Capitalism has been the great survivor of the ravages of history and of all the conflicting ideas and ideologies of the 19th and 20th Centuries. There has always been inequality and the ownership of capital is as old as written history. .

There is no escaping that today, we are all at the mercy of business, finance, and technology, all forms of capital. Capital drives government and the deficits that power governance. Global capital rules the space and marketplace in modern times, as the most basic forms of land ownership and organization ruled in centuries past. Capital is borderless and moves at the speed of light in the 21st Century.

Today, wealthy countries dominate poor countries. Rich rule over poor. Science and technology drive war and peace. Above stands the Multinational Corporation and powerful investor with the world as their stage.  Once upon a time Jack the Capitalist was a fixture of western society alone. Today the investor and capitalist rules in every country, east and west, north and south, and exists under every social and political system. The history of humankind may well end with capitalism.

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe is an education official in the Virgin Islands. He is also a national sea safety instructor. He writes a national column across media and has authored a story book on the Caribbean: ‘The Adventures of a West Indian Villager’. Dickson is focused on economics articles, and he believes economics holds the answer to the full economic and social development of the Caribbean. He is of both West African and Caribbean heritage. Dickson is married with one son.


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