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The 6 Commandments of Capitalism
How capitalism has permeated all sorts of aspects of our lives, like a religion
For far too long, our world has been dominated by economic, especially capitalist, ideologies. The pursuit of consumption, competition, growth, individualism, and optimization – cornerstones of capitalist philosophy – are not just confined to the economic realm but have become deeply embedded into our cultural norms, social interactions, and personal lives as well.
In today's world, most people perceive their daily life through a capitalist lens. The ideas of capitalism influence everything we do and even our own sense of self. It’s the defining worldview of our era. But it's high time to break free from this old belief system and create new narratives and visions of the future!!
This is a long read, but it’s an essential one! So try going through it all. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!
The 6 Commandments of Capitalism
#1: Thou shall consume
In the capitalist belief system people are consumers! People always need and want to consume something and are never done consuming. The idea of not-consuming is even seen as being useless for the economy and therefore for society and humanity’s progress as a whole. You gotta consume!
“The notion of human beings as consumers first took shape before World War I, but became commonplace in America in the 1920s. Consumption is now frequently seen as our principal role in the world.
People, of course, have always “consumed” the necessities of life — food, shelter, clothing — and have always had to work to get them or have others work for them, but there was little economic motive for increased consumption among the mass of people before the 20th century.”
But then came the 1920s and businessmen and economists feared…
“…that the immense productive powers created over the previous century had grown sufficiently to meet the basic needs of the entire population and had probably triggered a permanent crisis of overproduction. […] Victor Cutter, president of the United Fruit Company, exemplified the concern when he wrote in 1927 that the greatest economic problem of the day was the lack of “consuming power” in relation to the prodigious powers of production.”
The PR and advertising industry was born:
“In his classic 1928 book “Propaganda,” Edward Bernays, one of the pioneers of the public relations industry, put it this way:
‘Mass production is profitable only if its rhythm can be maintained—that is if it can continue to sell its product in steady or increasing quantity.… Today supply must actively seek to create its corresponding demand … [and] cannot afford to wait until the public asks for its product; it must maintain constant touch, through advertising and propaganda … to assure itself the continuous demand which alone will make its costly plant profitable.’
Edward Cowdrick, an economist who advised corporations on their management and industrial relations policies, called it “the new economic gospel of consumption,” in which workers (people for whom durable possessions had rarely been a possibility) could be educated in the new “skills of consumption.”
It was an idea also put forward by the new “consumption economists” such as Hazel Kyrk and Theresa McMahon, and eagerly embraced by many business leaders. New needs would be created, with advertising brought into play to “augment and accelerate” the process. People would be encouraged to give up thrift and husbandry, to value goods over free time. Kyrk argued for ever-increasing aspirations: “a high standard of living must be dynamic, a progressive standard,” where envy of those just above oneself in the social order incited consumption and fueled economic growth.”
Non-consumption or frugality are judged by society.
We are so accustomed to consuming that it becomes difficult to not do it, even when faced with more pressing issues or existential crises.
The act of consuming becomes a ritual, a cult
#2: Thou shall grow, endlessly
How can one stimulate new consumption in people who are already kinda satisfied? By hacking or hijacking people’s emotions and engineering new desires, stigmatizing the ‘old’ (the ‘enough’) and glorifying the ‘new’ and ‘more’. Eventually, ‘more’ becomes the core rhythm and mantra of capitalism.
“Charles Kettering, general director of General Motors Research Laboratories, equated such perpetual change with progress. In a 1929 article called “Keep the Consumer Dissatisfied,” he stated that “there is no place anyone can sit and rest in an industrial situation. It is a question of change, change all the time — and it is always going to be that way because the world only goes along one road, the road of progress.”
“[…] Or, as retail analyst Victor Lebow remarked in 1955:
‘Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.… We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.’”
“It was around this period [post Great Depression] that advertising heavyweight Earnest Elmo Calkins laid out a selling strategy that came to define purchasing habits for the next century: “consumer engineering,” or how advertisers and designers could artificially create demand, often by making older objects seem undesirable. Real estate broker Bernard London is often credited with coining this process as “planned obsolescence” through his 1932 paper that suggested the government put a lease on products’ life. “That’s when manufactured products started to be sort of done in season for the cycles and fashion,” Bird says.
Fast-forward a handful of decades, and now several generations of people are conditioned to buy the new thing and to keep replacing it. Companies, in turn, amp up production accordingly. It’s less so that objects are intended to break — functional planned obsolescence, if you will — but rather that consumer mindsets are oriented around finding the better object. But “better” doesn’t always mean long-lasting when companies are incentivized to produce faster and faster and faster.”
Consumption becomes therapy. Artificially stimulated desires can only be satisfied with buying more.
We glorify having or owning lots of things. Being material-rich.
Culture is made in service of profit-seeking brands.
“The year is 2022. You go to a workout class at the Bala store. You do yoga inside its sculpted pastel interior, like being inside of an Instagram advertisement. It feels like every aspect of your life could live in this world. Delightfully packaged, seamless, products that elevate all of your activities to a luxury branded experience.
The 2010s is what I want to call the era of Lifestyle.
[…] Stare long enough, and you begin to see the whole: an economy where culture is made in service of brands. To be even more literal: cultural production has become a service industry for the supply chain.”
Being able to choose from a wide range of options becomes an expectation that must be met. Limited consumption choice is equated with limited freedom.
Our true desires are being pushed into the background by an oversupply of material junk food and short-term dopamine boosts.
Seeking growth and becoming bigger and bigger becomes a value in itself. Big = good.
"Where does the assumption that every business should grow to mega scale really come from? Well, it’s a relic of the industrial age. Back then, a business had to be as big as possible, to accomplish economies of scale. One factory — a hundred widgets. One factory — a million widgets. The second scenario wins — it pays off the fixed costs of the factory faster. Only we’re not in the industrial age anymore. But our businesses, institutions, and organzations — in fact, our whole economies — are still run for, governed by, this obsolete, macho principle of achieving ultra huge mega scale."
#3: Thou shall pursue optimization
Everything can be made more efficient and better. Things are never sufficient. Everything around us is put on an infinite optimization scale, meaning there is always potential to further optimize something.
“Convenience was the household version of another late-19th-century idea, industrial efficiency, and its accompanying ‘scientific management.’ It represented the adaptation of the ethos of the factory to domestic life.
[…] However mundane it seems now, convenience, the great liberator of humankind from labor, was a utopian ideal. By saving time and eliminating drudgery, it would create the possibility of leisure. And with leisure would come the possibility of devoting time to learning, hobbies or whatever else might really matter to us. Convenience would make available to the general population the kind of freedom for self-cultivation once available only to the aristocracy.”
We look at the world (and aspects of our lives) as being insufficient. With time, this results in developing a sort of aggression towards the world.
“‘One under-appreciated consequence of believing there is such a thing as the ‘one best way’ in every aspect of life is subsequently living with the unyielding pressure to discover it and the inevitable and perpetual frustration of failing to achieve it,’ Sacacas writes. ‘And not only frustration. It produces anxiety, fear, compulsiveness, resignation, and, ultimately, self-loathing. If there is “one best way,” how will I know it? If I have not found it, have I failed? And is it my fault?’”
“In this way, the quest for the best — or for the hack that will actually make some part of our life less cumbersome — throws a veil of dissatisfaction over our days. I look around the room and I see a laundry basket in need of optimization, an unsatisfactory rug, house plants that should be growing more. […] Instead of looking around my living space with gratitude for the soft comfort I’ve built for myself, inflected with my peculiar tastes and preferences, I see lack. And that dissatisfaction becomes a sort of lingering fog, dampening my experience of the world.”
“Modern societies are characterized by their mode of dynamic stabilization. This means that they can only reproduce their structure and maintain the institutional status quo by constantly achieving economic growth, technological acceleration and cultural innovation. This creates a 'need for speed' that requires individuals and organizations to constantly seek opportunities for rationalization and optimization. After all, it is us, the individuals, who need to grow, accelerate and innovate incessantly, i.e., to run faster and faster each year just to stay in place.
However, the incessant social pressure for acceleration and growth has an ugly flipside: It enforces a basic mode of 'aggression' towards the world (i.e. towards internal as well as external nature) and leads in turn to towering forms of alienation which quickly turn into political anger and frustration.”
We stigmatize slowness and any activity that reqiues long periods of focus and time. The more we let convenience dictate our lives, the higher we set our threshold in terms of when we get annoyed by something taking lower than expected. Eventually, we create a sense of time starvation, i.e. there is never enough time.
“Several attributes and practices valorized by a monochronic understanding of time – which we could also call Rapid-Growth Capitalism time, or Productivity Fetishist time, or White Bourgeois time — are objectively in service of efficiency. […] Through the commitment to busyness and its organization, we inscribe and reinscribe a certain understanding of time onto our children, onto each other, onto ourselves. We discipline our messy, distracted, inquisitive, emotive selves into the most valuable possible forms of human capital possible. We suggest that sort of regimentation is not only possible (just organize harder!) but aspirational.”
“The more we synchronize ourselves with the time in clocks, the more we fall out of sync with our own bodies and the world around us. […] In the natural world, the movement of ‘hours’ or ‘weeks’ do not matter. Thus the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the sudden extinction of species that have lived on Earth for millions of years, the rapid spread of viruses, the pollution of our soil and water — the true impact of all of this is beyond our realm of understanding because of our devotion to a scale of time and activity relevant to nothing except humans.”
As we seek the most frictionless path, we lose choice and freedom.
“We have far more choices than we realize.[…] It’s convenience that holds us back. And it comes in many forms.
Social convenience: it’s easier to sit through a boring cocktail party or a meeting than it is to tell someone you don’t want to come. Physical convenience: things that are handy are much more likely to be chosen than ones that require us to move somewhere to go get them. Intellectual convenience: change makes us uncomfortable. Sunk costs are hard to ignore. Possibility comes with agency, and agency comes with risk. Financial convenience: if it’s cheaper in the short run, we’re more likely to choose it, even if it costs satisfaction, opportunity or cash in the long run. Cultural convenience: A combination of all of these, because culture likes the status quo and reminds of this regularly.
If we ever saw precisely how much freedom of choice we have if we were willing to sacrifice convenience for it, we’d be paralyzed.”
The best? The best is what is most (economically) efficient. The parts that aren’t economically efficient (mostly that which adds texture, meaning, story, humanity, love, richness…) get cut out.
[…] Segalovich has looked specifically at how this minimalist and colorless design style shows up in coffee shops. On her TikTok, she shows images of the colorful coffee shops created by locals for their own community that are less common now, often replaced by coffee shops that function more as glorified co-working spaces. ‘All of this goes along with an obsession with streamlining: cutting the ‘unnecessary’ color and ornament for an aesthetic of optimization. There’s this idea that the most minimal thing will deliver the most benefits the quickest,’ she says.”
“So, there you have it. The interiors of our homes, coffee shops and restaurants all look the same. The buildings where we live and work all look the same. The cars we drive, their colours and their logos all look the same. The way we look and the way we dress all looks the same. Our movies, books and video games all look the same. And the brands we buy, their adverts, identities and taglines all look the same.
But it doesn’t end there. In the age of average, homogeneity can be found in an almost indefinite number of domains.
The Instagram pictures we post, the tweets we read, the TV we watch, the app icons we click, the skylines we see, the websites we visit and the illustrations which adorn them all look the same. The list goes on, and on, and on.”
[….] as our everyday software tools and media became global for the first time, the hand of the artist gave way to the whims of the algorithm. And our software became one-size-fits-all in a world full of so many different people. All our opinions, beliefs, and ideas got averaged out — producing the least common denominator: endless sequels that everyone enjoys but no one truly loves.
[…] in so much modern software today, you’re placed in a drab gray cubicle — anonymized and aggregated until you’re just a daily active user. For minimalism. For simplicity. For scale!
We lose mental (and physical) endurance and toughness.
“[…] our "friction muscle" is atrophying in this frictionless world. We rarely face the struggles that created friction in our lives, so we're losing our ability to endure and outlast them. When we do inevitably encounter them, we simply break. The smallest inconveniences seem to annoy us to all hell.” Sahil Bloom
“We’ve gone from hunting and growing our food to pressing three buttons on a phone to get it…” Seth Godin
#4: Humans are a Resource
People become useful only by either consuming or serving. A person is only useful to society if that person becomes a resource. And that resource is best utilized through serving an organization.
As I wrote in From Corporation to Self-Actualization:
The modern idea of corporations and people being predominantly employed by such is a concept that’s only a few hundred years old (at most). To an average person in the year 1800, the idea that most people would be employed by large corporations would have seemed crazy.
“Over the large arch of history, dating back to the Greeks, the Romans, and the Middle Ages in Western history, leisure was the basis of culture.” - Historian Benjamin Hunnicutt
Moreover, the foundations from which corporate structures and culture emerged, and are still influenced by, are quite questionable, to say the least: i.e. colonialist ideologies and military regimens and strategies.
“Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. […] [It] remains history’s most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power.” - The Original Corporate Raiders
Workism or glorifying work for its own sake.
“For white-collar professionals, jobs have become akin to a religious identity: In addition to a paycheck, they provide meaning, community, and a sense of purpose. Journalist Derek Thompson dubbed this new phenomenon “workism.” A workist seeks meaning from their work similar to how a religious person seeks meaning from their faith. Workism is even more pronounced among entrepreneurs, who often entangle their self-worth with their professional accomplishments.
According to Thompson, the phenomenon of workism is relatively new. Over the course of the twentieth century, work evolved from a chore to a status to a means of self-actualization. […] When you conflate who you are with what you do, you can miss out on other meaningful aspects of life.”
“Our modern concept of work is relatively new—only about 300 years old. For most of human history—from the Greeks, to the Romans, to the Middle Ages—leisure was the basis of culture. Only in the 16th century, when the Reformation brought the rise of the Protestant work ethic, did people begin to see work as a way to bring oneself closer to God. The religious aspect of work faded, but faith in hard work persisted, evolving into the modern-day spirit of capitalism.”
People try to optimize themselves to become the most efficient resources. Eventually, humans turn into machines (also quite literally).
“[Kate] Eichhorn uses the potent term ‘content capital’ - a riff on Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘cultural capital’ - to describe the way in which a fluency in posting online can determine the success, or even the existence, of an artist’s work. […]
‘Cultural producers who, in the past, may have focused on writing books or producing films or making art must now also spend considerable time producing (or paying someone else to produce) content about themselves and their work,’ Eichhorn writes.
“[…] All are trapped by the daily pressure to produce ancillary content—memes, selfies, shitposts—to fill an endless void.”
“In our efforts to get business to take us [design] seriously, we have distorted the true value of design, which is what makes it unique in the first place. The true value of design, however, was never to find a single solution to a problem. But to understand, and explore.
When we started seeing things clinically through the business lens, we basically started producing as a factory. We became means to an end. We had to shut up [...]. And so we assimilated. Efficiency, consistency, design thinking, risk aversion, MVP, PMF. Valuable terms, alas limit the scope of the core value of design in the first place; To understand and explore.”
“Much has been written from an economic perspective about whether automation will eliminate jobs, decrease wages, contribute to job growth, or “create as many jobs as it destroys over time.” However, less attention has been given to thinking about how these technologies will affect our politics. […] Experiences with strangers can shape how we define our community and politics. If we no longer encounter cashiers or fast food employees, many of whom are temporary foreign workers, will our beliefs about immigration policies or minimum wage change? What do bike couriers think about bike lanes? How does a dental office receptionist feel about universal dental care, or a corner store clerk about crime rates?” The Conversation
Workers, people become demoralized.
“Demoralization occurs when teachers cannot reap the moral rewards that they previously were able to access in their work. It happens when teachers are consistently thwarted in their ability to enact the values that brought them to the profession.”
Resources can be exploited. If people are a resource, they become exploitable, both as consumers and as workers.
“Guillaume Chaslot, an engineer who left Google in 2013 after helping to design YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, remembers being told to program it to encourage larger amounts of time spent by people on the site. ‘When you optimize for time spent, then you optimize for addiction,’ he says. ‘At the time, I did not even realize that.’ Wordle, BeReal and Even Facebook: Apps Get Less Addictive
“In his latest book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, author Johann Hari outlines how our inability to focus is far from a personal failing. Rather, it is the work of ‘huge invasive forces,’ including big tech, which have corroded our concentration by taking aim at it, monetizing it, harvesting it, only to sell it on. Hari describes this as a crisis of attention, one that is directly comparable to the climate crisis. Both are built on extractivist ideologies that push our bodies and our environment beyond their limits. And both are existential in scale and urgency.”
We become de-attached from the workers behind the things we buy and use.
“This series gives a new perspective to the work that goes behind those toys you buy with the ‘Made in China’ label attached. The tedious and mundane work of people slaving away in a factory that we never, ever think about is brought up close and personal to us in this series. We are faced with the actual hands that assemble that plastic action figure your child will forget about in 30 minutes.”
#5 Nature is a Resource and an Externality
In the capitalist belief system, nature is only useful as a resource that generates stuff which in turn generates economic value and growth. Nature gets a monetary value and becomes fuel for economic growth. In addition, nature is seen seperate, “external” from the “human world”.
“[…] the dominant economic paradigm sees nature as separate from human society: an “externality” that provides an infinite source of resources and an infinite sink for waste. The standard economic “production function” has no concept of energy, entropy, planetary boundaries, or any other finite limits to growth. If one looks inside the theories, models, and ideologies that shape the decisions of finance ministries, central banks, regulators, the courts, investors, and businesses, one finds that nature rarely, if ever, appears. This simply does not reflect the reality that economic value creation is both wholly dependent on, and significantly impacts, nature—the two are mutually interdependent.”
“The largest religion on earth is not Christianity or Islam: it's the widespread, faith-based belief system which holds that humans are separate from each other and from the world.”
We limit nature’s value to just being a commodity.
“Biodiversity is being lost and nature’s contributions to people are being degraded faster now that at any other point in human history. [...] This is largely because our current approach to political and economic decisions does not sufficiently account for the diversity of nature’s values.”
We place the “human world” above the “natural world”. We add classism (more important, less important) to nature.
“This is precisely what we find in Bostrom’s account of existential risks and its associated normative futurology: nature, the entire Universe, our ‘cosmic endowment’ is there for the plundering, to be manipulated, transformed and converted into ‘value-structures, such as sentient beings living worthwhile lives’ in vast computer simulations, quoting Bostrom’s essay ‘Astronomical Waste’ (2003).
It is difficult to overstate how influential longtermism has become. Consider that Elon Musk, who has cited and endorsed Bostrom’s work, has donated $1.5 million dollars to FHI through its sister organisation, the even more grandiosely named Future of Life Institute (FLI). This was cofounded by the multimillionaire tech entrepreneur Jaan Tallinn, who, as I recently noted, doesn’t believe that climate change poses an ‘existential risk’ to humanity because of his adherence to the longtermist ideology.”
“Progress studies [related to Longtermism] doesn't desire a world where humans live more harmoniously with nature. As Crawford [author of a popular progress studies blog] writes: ‘Humanism says that when improving human life requires altering the environment, humanity takes moral precedence over nature.’ BBC Future
We see human-made solutions as more sophisticated than natural solutions.
“‘We live in a society that believes in techno-solutionism’, Philippe Bihouix says. Citizens believe in a future where high-tech innovations and their positive outcomes will create a world where everything is more energy-efficient: smart grids, renewable energies, driverless cars will keep revolutionizing the world and will save the planet and its climate.
This faith in progress has been a driving force since the industrial revolution, but countries have come to realize the finiteness of natural resources such as oil: can we really resolve problems that were caused by the rise of industrial and technological progress with the same processes?” via Climate Foresight
We de-attach, seperate ourselves from the source materials (the natural ingredients) that make up the products we buy and use. This in turn means that we lose our responsibility towards nature.
“Are you sitting comfortably? If so, how much do you know about the chair that’s holding you off the ground – what it’s made from, and what its production process looked like? Where it was made, and by whom? Or go deeper: how were the materials used to make the chair extracted from the planet? Most people will find it difficult to answer these basic questions. The object cradling your body remains, in many ways, mysterious to you.”
[…] Quite probably, you are surrounded by many things of which you know next to nothing – among them, the device on which you are reading these words. Most of us live in a state of general ignorance about our physical surroundings. It’s not our fault; centuries of technological sophistication and global commerce have distanced most of us from making physical things, and even from seeing or knowing how they are made. But the slow and pervasive separation of people from knowledge of the material world brings with it a serious problem. [...] In effect, we are living in a state of perpetual remote control. […] If no one understands what is really happening, how can anyone be held responsible?”
“‘There is an entire generation of consumers at this point that doesn’t actually know what high-quality clothing feels like and looks like.’” Vox
Because we falsely see nature – the “external” – as separate from ourselves, we compete with each other, and with our own self, because we are nature.
“We are manipulated into continually working against each other in competition-based systems rather than with each other in collaboration-based ones. [...] Scientists could be cooperating around the world to make it a better planet to live on while we all work together for the sake of human thriving. We can learn to collaborate not just with each other but with our ecosystem for the mutual benefit of ourselves and our biosphere.”
“But these aims are unattainable for a deeply unconscious species still chained to delusions about self and separation. As long as we are still driven by fear and greed and still easily manipulated by mental narrative, we will remain bound to the self-destructive patterning that is leading our species to its doom.”
From what I wrote in Seeing Wetiko:
We call nature ‘the wilderness’ and animals within it ‘wild animals’ while we are ‘civil’ humans. This type of language alone shows our un-symbiotic relationship with nature. We see us, humans, ourselves, as being separate or even superior to nature (the ‘wild’ vs the tame, conscious, civil), a mental model that is at the root of so many powerful and often destructive systems we’ve built. […] Wetiko reframes the un-symbiotic and destructive relationship between humans and nature into a so-called ‘mind-virus’:
“Wetiko is an Algonquin [indigenous people of Eastern Canada] word for a cannibalistic spirit that is driven by greed, excess and selfish consumption (in Ojibwa it is windigo, wintiko in Powhatan).
It deludes its host into believing that cannibalising the life-force of others (others in the broad sense, including animals and other forms of Gaian life) is a logical and morally upright way to live.
Wetiko short-circuits the individual’s ability to see itself as an enmeshed and interdependent part of a balanced environment and raises the self-serving ego to supremacy. It is this false separation of self from nature that makes this cannibalism, rather than simple murder.” » Seeing Wetiko
#6: Thou Shall See Yourself as an Independent Individual
People are rational decision-makers. They are also individuals. Everyone is on their own trying to live life according to their ideals and dreams. Cooperation is for the “weak”.
“Economics, management and organizational theories assume, at least implicitly, a certain model of the human being, and this has significant consequences for the subsequent development of such theories and the practice of management. So far the dominant model has been, and continues to be, that of the homo economicus, although with certain variants.
Homo economicus, in simple terms, is an individual with interests and preferences and a rational capacity oriented to maximizing those preferences, which are usually considered as self-regarding. This model has its immediate source in John Stuart Mill, with antecedents in certain nineteenth-century economists, ultimately traceable to Adam Smith, who had a broader view of the human being.
Originally, homo economicus was conceived of not as an accurate description of human nature but as a model of economic behavior; however, in time, it became a crucial element of the neoclassical scheme of price equilibrium, and even the “only way” of understanding economic and organizational behavior.”
“Economists don’t get societies. “There is no such thing as society,” the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said in 1987, and (quite rightly) she caught hell for it. But economics—not just the Austrian school of Thatcher’s beloved Friedrich Hayek—is premised on the choices of individuals, not societies, and therefore tends to miss how individuals within a society affect one another. “According to the atomic theory of economics,” writes the mathematician Orrell, “individual people or businesses are supposed to be independent of one another, so they are uninfluenced by each other’s decisions…. But in fact every decision we make is affected by what is going on around us—and not just during financial booms and busts.
The Economicist presumption that individuals operate in isolation lies at the heart of the problem known as the Tragedy of the Commons, first described in 1968 by Garrett Hardin, a biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. If farmers shared a common, the theory went, it would get overgrazed, because each farmer would value only his own personal interest in maximizing its use.”
We overestimate rationality and underestimate emotional and irrational aspects of decision-making. Eventually, we lose “touch” with our own emotional intuition.
From my piece about Pleasure Activism:
“[Non-self-coercion] is about transitioning from forcing yourself to choosing what you want to do.”
Non-self-coercion basically says “just do what you intrinsically want to do”. That might sound very simple, but it actually isn’t, because in today’s world of overchoice and social competition it becomes evermore difficult for an individual to understand what they actually intrinsically want to do.
“People operating from a lifelong list of ‘shoulds’ have often completely lost touch with their intrinsic motivation. […] When we reconnect with ‘why’ instead of juicing ourselves up with the dark motivators like fear, envy, and shame, we choose the active pursuit of something good over the reactive avoidance of something bad.”
Instead of connecting and collaborating, we are competing against each other. Moreover, we see society as a playground for competition and add classism to societies, i.e. winners vs. losers mindset.
“Callahan remembers at least a couple people inside Facebook raising a concern that would prove prescient: they worried, he told me, that “low-effort directional feedback,” in the form of a “like” or “awesome” button, would “eliminate thoughtful engagement, because people were lazy and would take the lazy way out” if given the option.
That might sound like a very post-2017 critique: the notion that mindless clicks ought to be eschewed in favor of meaningful interactions for the sake of democratic discourse and our own well-being. But it’s not clear that anyone at Facebook back then was laboring under the assumption that their product design decisions would have world-historical implications. Rather, they were focused squarely on building a better and more engaging product than MySpace, and the crucial question was whether replacing comments with clicks would aid or inhibit that quest. The implicit assumption, according to Pearlman, was that what was good for Facebook’s users was good for Facebook’s business, and probably good for the world.”
» The inside story of how Facebook designed the like button—and made social media into a popularity contest
“30% of teen girls now say that they have seriously considered suicide (up from 19% in 2011).” Article on
“[There is] a rise of a kind of wonky obsession with business stats in fandoms, invoked as a way to convey the rightness of artistic opinions—what I want to call Quantitative Aesthetics.[…] It manifests in music. As the New York Times wrote in 2020 of the new age of pop fandom, “devotees compare No. 1s and streaming statistics like sports fans do batting averages, championship, wins and shooting percentages.” […] indie director James Gray, of Ad Astra fame, recently complained about ordinary cinema-goers using business stats as a proxy for artistic merit: “It tells you something of how indoctrinated we are with capitalism that somebody will say, like, ‘His movies haven’t made a dime!’ It’s like, well, do you own stock in Comcast? Or are you just such a lemming that you think that actually has value to anybody?”
It’s not just financial data though. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have recently become go-to arbitrators of taste by boiling down a movie’s value to a single all-purpose statistic.”
We see ourselves as being alone, independent and disconnected from one another, from nature, from everything. Or we see ourselves just as one part in a big world, instead of seeing everyone and everything as an interlinked one.
“Over the last 50 years human-centred design was embraced by companies seeking to develop better experiences and to drive innovation. However, there is mounting evidence that placing the consumer at the centre of the design process is actually harming human wellbeing, as its narrow focus is damaging the global systems essential to our prosperity.”
“From addictive scrolling to popularising unhealthy lifestyles, human-centred design has the power to create things that people want. But what people want is not necessarily good for their mental and physical health. Neither is it good for the health of the planet and for future generations, who will have to pay for the damage caused by the ‘growth above all else’ mindset."
“It’s time to recalibrate the contribution of human-centred design beyond consumption and towards sustainment. This requires a paradigm shift, one that decentres the human.”
Wow! That’s it! The 6 commandments of the religion of capitalism and how they are influencing not just economics or business, but everything.
But about a new narrative? A better narrative that reframes all of the above? Something to look forward to? A new vision of a better world?
That’s exactly what I am working on! A new story that not only imagines a better world but also showcases how we can get there. This, however, requires one thing that is both extremely simple but also very hard: A shift in perspective!
Thanks a lot for making it to the end!
And stay tuned for the new narrative part of this, coming in a few weeks!
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