Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

The Crisis of Capitalism

Posted by alifinmath on April 1, 2009

“The crisis of capitalism” is an expression a Marxist would traditionally use. And “Marxist” is what I am. But these days it’s tripping from the tongues of a lot of people. I do hear sales of Marx’s magnum opus, “Das Kapital,” are up in both the US and Europe as people struggle to make conceptual sense of what’s happening. But it’s more than merely a crisis of capitalism; it’s a crisis of modernity, of which capitalism is but one component (albeit crucial). The crisis of modernity is a crisis of imperialism, of militarism, of population growth, and of ecological devastation. It foreshadows worse to come.

At one time I used to think mathematics could explain the world. The naivete of brash and callow youth. I lost that hubris a long time ago. In fact most of my posts on this blog have had nothing to do with math for quite some time. I have begun to suspect not only mathematics specifically but reason generally. The world cannot be understood completely (or maybe at all) on a rational basis. Unconscious psychological drives — both individual and collective — lie at the root of our world. The tools of reason are ineffectual, utterly useless, in understanding these drives. These drives are behind the various crises in our lives — both individual and collective. The global crisis referred to above cannot be fathomed on a rational basis (though I’m guilty of reading countless analyses and interpretations).

Our educational system develops the power of reason — but not much else. The world of unconscious drives remains a mystery. In fairness, it’s a murky, strange, and mysterious world — full of shadows, illusions and madness. There may not be a reliable compass for this world. Yet it underpins our world of sense-experience.

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