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The Capitalist Market

The Capitalist Market

(p.164) Seven The Capitalist Market
Our Oldest Task
Eric T. Freyfogle
University of Chicago Press

The capitalist market embodies and accentuates key elements of modern culture: it endorses human exceptionalism, treats people as autonomous individuals, discounts the future, fragments and commodifies nature’s parts, overlooking ecological interconnections and most life forms; denies human ignorance and sensory limits, strips market participants of moral responsibility, and equates normative goodness with the satisfaction of individual preferences, By rewarding aggression and risk-taking the market provides incentives to misuse nature and by dividing people into their individual roles saps the community as such of power. This system needs reform, not because markets are inherently destructive, but because of the ways today’s market capitalism entrenches these cultural attitudes. Reform of the economy is thus not rightly thought about as a separate undertaking (as a push for a new economy); it must be part of a larger campaign of cultural change. The chapter ends by noting how the campaign for such cultural reform will bear little resemblance to the ongoing push for gay rights or marriage equality—a typical civil right campaign that sought change in one aspect of modern culture while leaving the vast bulk of it unaltered, including all elements relating to humans and nature.

Keywords:   commodification of nature, fragmentation of nature, human exceptionalism, human ignorance, markets and culture, market capitalism, market incentives, new economy

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