Periodization of Capitalism

In my past life, I was a paralegal for a law firm in Northern Virginia which specialized mostly in divorce cases and immigration cases for about two years while I was in college. I worked mostly on immigration cases, although I have sat in on divorce trials at one local court and have assisted on a few divorce cases. Part of being a paralegal for immigration cases is to be very meticulous when filling out and reviewing the various applications and forms for immigration cases. And one of the most glaring questions on the two major immigration applications and forms in the United States – namely, the ones which pertain to permanent residency and citizenship in the United States – is the question of whether the applicant has ever joined or has ever been part of a Marxist organization or Marxist political party. 

I should note that anyone who has ever read Marx may have realized the incredible energy which hits a person’s face when they engage with Marx’s texts. It is perhaps undeniable that Marx exuded a kind of energy which ultimately split the world into two separate economic, political, and social blocs that were vehemently opposed to one another. Such vehement opposition to one another is perhaps the one major reason as to why such a question would be on applications for permanent residency and citizenship in the United States. And as mentioned before, the irony and humor of the current political situation in the United States stem from the fact that one of the two major political parties in the United States is adopting what is seemingly a Marxist strategy of “class conflict” or “class warfare” to acquire power.

Hegel rightly noted that there are “plebes” in both major classes. Thus, one cannot generalize about the character or personality of an entire class based on a handful of rotten apples in each class. There is also the issue of race in relation to economics, politics, and social organization. While race is a major determinant of social reality, race is not the most important determinant of social reality, nor is race the most important determinant in terms of the creation and sustainability of a ‘civilization.’ As mentioned before, an oeuvre and thus recourse to the basic oeuvre of a civilization is the most important factor in the sustainability of a civilization, not race. And whether one likes it or not, Marx happens to be a major aspect or element of the basic and foundational Western oeuvre. 

Nevertheless, the basic organizing principle of Western economics, governance, and society is capitalism. And as certain scholars have argued, there are essentially three stages in the overall lifespan of capitalism. First, there is the stage known as ‘competitive capitalism’ which is perhaps grassroots in nature and amounts to the process of actualizing a society’s economic potential. Second, there is the stage known as ‘classical imperialism’ which is familiar to the former colonial powers as well as to the United States ever since it emerged out of a policy of “isolationism” at the start of the 20th century. The third and final stage of capitalism is known as ‘late capitalism’ and it is defined by the control of the economy, government, and society by what is known as the ‘one percent’ of the population belonging to ‘high finance.’ 

Arguably, America is in a transition period between the final stage of capitalism known as ‘late capitalism’ and the context or situation beyond ‘late capitalism’ which is known as ‘post-capitalism.’ There is a debate raging as to what exactly constitutes ‘post-capitalism.’ But thus far, the three major contenders for what could make up the foundation or organizing principle of a ‘post-capitalist’ context and situation in the United States are socialism, anarchism, or ‘de-growth.’ Which context, situation, or principle comes out on top and ultimately defines our ‘post-capitalism’ environment in the United States and perhaps the world as a whole is unclear at the moment. 

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