DLGP

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Successful Capitalism?

Written by: on October 30, 2023

Introduction

Postmodernism is a complex and multifaceted intellectual movement that emerged in the mid-20th Century. It challenges the modernist belief in universal truths, grand narratives, and the idea of objective reality. Postmodernists argue that social, cultural, and historical contexts shape all knowledge and reality.[1] While postmodernism has influenced various fields, including art, literature, and politics, its impact on socialism and leftist political ideologies is debatable.

Stephen Hicks, in his work “Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault,” has asked and answered two pertinent questions: First, why have “postmodernist” intellectuals rejected Enlightenment belief in reason while embracing epistemological relativism and metaphysical nihilism instead? Second, why does postmodernist rhetoric display a blatant disregard for accuracy and apparent contempt for civility?[2] According to Max Hocutt, these questions are pertinent for two reasons. “First, the epistemological relativist says in effect, “I know a truth; no truth is known,” and the metaphysical nihilist says in effect, “The reality we must recognize is that there is no reality to recognize…” Second, “postmodernism” is a fashionable name for the political Left, where the superiority of socialism to capitalism was initially declared to be a result, not a contrary, of reason. So, postmodernism is not only self-refuting; it also represents a complete turnabout, and this is cause for puzzlement.[3] Hicks tries to solve the puzzle of the two questions in his book. He argues that postmodernism is anti-realist, and it attacks classical liberalism and capitalism. Hicks traces the origination of this current post-modernist thinking from familiar names such as Kant and Rosseau (and many others) to briefly and succinctly demonstrate how we evolved from Enlightenment thinking based on reason and universal truths to anything goes relativism.

From Marxist Socialism to the Far Left

What I found to be fascinating was Hick’s discourse on Marxist socialism which was initially premised on empirical study and scientific evidence tracing its evolution to its current version expressed as the far Left, which is a postmodernist response to the failures of socialism in theory and practice and, it is steeped in relativism.[4] Hicks describes the failure of socialism in practice and theory based on the extremes various governments had undertaken to implement the principles of socialism. For example, he mentions Stalin, in particular, as one who was even more brutal than Hitler.[5] Based on Hicks’s writing, two significant events stand out as having a significant impact on the demise of far-right socialism, WWII and the fact that capitalism was a success in terms of people getting wealthy, including the poor.[6]

It is on this point, the success of capitalism, that I’ve had to step back and think about the implications of this statement. Let me preface this by saying I do not espouse socialism or the far-left position(s). What I do ‘see’ is an attempt by humanity (Marxist thinking) to create a collective community based on human machinations and the absence of our Creator—a counterfeit. And because the far Left has tried to co-opt the needs of people experiencing poverty and the disenfranchised to represent an agenda, it is equally appalling. However, it can be misleading to say that capitalism has succeeded – particularly in helping to raise the standard of people experiencing poverty. This may have been true in the late 19th or early 20th Century during the Second Industrial Revolution, but in the past 50 years or more, that has not been the case. According to a Pew Research report published in 2014, after adjusting for inflation, today’s average hourly wage has just about the same purchasing power as it did in 1978. In addition, the article goes on to state that since 2000, “wage gains have gone primarily to the highest earners… weekly wages have risen 3% for the lowest tenth…4.3% among the lowest quarter…people in the top tenth have risen a cumulative 15.7%…-nearly five times the usual weekly earnings of the bottom tenth.[7] Besides cash, the cost of benefits, i.e., health insurance, retirement account contributions, etc., have risen faster than wages in recent years, which erodes even further the buying power of the poor. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is also hurting the middle class. The U.S. middle class had $17, 867 less income in 2007 because of the growth of inequality since 1979.[8]

Closing

While Hicks seems intent on attributing the current state of postmodernism’s irrationalism to the far Left and their (the Left’s) persistent adherence to collectivism as disingenuous to their advocacy for people experiencing poverty – his work does provide a thoughtful analysis of how we got here. But his work seems one-sided and less objective than the initial impression.

[1] ChatGPT, OpenAI, October 30, 2023.

[2] Max Hocutt, “Review of Hicks versus Postmodernism,” by Stephen R. C. Hicks. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 7, no. 2 (2006): 445. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41560324.

[3] Ibid., 445.

[4] Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (China: Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011), 89.

[5] Max Hocutt, “Review of Hicks versus Postmodernism,” by Stephen R. C. Hicks. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 7, no. 2 (2006): 455. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41560324.

[6] Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (China: Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011), 87.

[7] Drew Desilver, “For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades,” Pew Research https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/08/07/for-most-us-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades/

[8] Lawrence Mishel. Elise Gould, and Josh Bivens, “Wage Stagnation In Nine Charts,” Economic Policy Institute (January 6, 2015): 3, https://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/

About the Author

Audrey Robinson

4 responses to “Successful Capitalism?”

  1. mm Becca Hald says:

    Audrey, great review of Hicks. I appreciate how you summarized his work while offering your own critique of it as well.

    “However, it can be misleading to say that capitalism has succeeded – particularly in helping to raise the standard of people experiencing poverty.”

    This makes me think of my daughter. She has been working for years on writing a fictional novel. One of the aspects of her world building is that she dreams of a world in which everyone has their basic needs met. She has expressed that she wishes this idea could become a reality in the real world and my husband and I have had many interesting conversations with her. I do not believe we will see such a world this side of heaven, but she believes it possible. I wonder what our country would look like if capitalism did truly succeed at raising the standards of the people experiencing poverty.

    • Audrey Robinson says:

      Becca, your daughter sounds like a pretty amazing person. I hope and pray she never loses her optimism and continues to imagine a world where all needs are met.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Dr. Robinson

    I really enjoyed your post, especially your conclusion.
    Closing

    While Hicks seems intent on attributing the current state of postmodernism’s irrationalism to the far Left and their (the Left’s) persistent adherence to collectivism as disingenuous to their advocacy for people experiencing poverty – his work does provide a thoughtful analysis of how we got here. But his work seems one-sided and less objective than the initial impression.

    Thank you for bringing a great conclusion to a complicated issue. God Bless!

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