Friday, August 12, 2011

Saving Capitalism from Itself

The remarkable reformer, lawyer, and jurist, Louis D. Brandeis,* attempted to persuade the partisans of plutocracy that it was in their best interests to reform capitalism if they were concerned to save it: “the great captains of industry and of finance,” he warned them “…are the chief makers of socialism.” And of course Brandeis himself did much to humanize (in the broadest sense) capitalism in the first decades of the last century. But the truth of his rhetorical warning is an open question: does the behavior of corporate and finance capitalists contribute to rendering socialist theories and practices more palatable to masses experiencing the sudden thwarting of both their needs and fantasies? Is floundering in the conditions of material uncertainty and psychological insecurity conducive to rendering hearts and minds more receptive to utopian visions and radical socio-economic reforms and experimentation of socialist pedigree?

* See Melvin I. Urofsky’s biography, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life. New York: Pantheon Books, 2009.

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