Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm

30 Jun

At best, efforts by European, American and Japanese policy makers to spur growth may only succeed in slightly slowing down the pace of the approaching western economic depression.  The economic woes being experienced by these countries are as a result of extensive rot occasioned by unchecked systemic greed left to fester for decades. Western-style, ultra-individualistic, extremely competitive, consumerism-extolling form of capitalism has been severely discredited and there is need for a new paradigm.

What is next? Is the question no one is asking because no one knows the answer. When it thrived, western-style capitalism promoted democracy with one hand, but had no tolerance for freedom of thought and speech where its theory and practice were concerned. The subject of Economics ought long ago to have been renamed Western Capitalism, for rather than the genuine exploration of different methods of economic management,  starry eyed students were indoctrinated, from high school through Ph.D. level, to believe that there was no other alternative to western-style economic liberalism. In the classrooms, board rooms, and meeting rooms,  western economic thinkers and practitioners regurgitated on their narrow economic knowledge,  shutting out other voices and patting themselves on the back, in the name of exchanging ideas.

The few peripheral voices from Africa, Asia and the rest of the world who advanced other ideas were mostly ignored.  Oblivion, or worse still, public denouncement threatened the western economist who in the point of research stumbles upon and dares  to acknowledge principles, theories and practices – outside of the western liberal paradigm  –  of economic advancement.

To be accepted in the circle of the eminent, one must mouth western-style liberal lexicology, and snub every other point of view.  Most importantly, a ‘well trained’ economist is easily identified by his unfamiliar grand sounding words and phrases, especially when in the company of the uninformed,  as if to remind them that economists rule the world and are granted access to its inner workings.

It became lost in this maze of civilizational arrogance that capitalism is not a western concept, but a human concept. In Africa, for example, Walter Rodney asserts that before European intrusion in the mid-fifteenth century,state supported economic activities thrived among the populace. He writes that “guilds of merchants travel long miles, criss-crossing the continent, to sell commodities and productions: cotton, millet, wheat, corn, peppers, yams, rice, peanuts, kola nuts, honey, onions; and transformed products such as fine leather works; silver, gold and copper made jewelry; ivory, cloths, basketry, straw hats, iron, lead, copper ware, mats, jars, pots, pans, soap and dried and smoked fish” (Rodney 1974). Capitalist systems of government existed in several societies across sub-Saharan Africa,  one example is Opobo kingdom in South-south Nigeria under King Jaja.

But the west would rise to declare itself the “discoverers” of capitalism. Capitalism became synonymous with its western style, and its practice an either /or issue; you either subscribed to western-style capitalism, or you are communist. No; capitalism is a human and not a western concept. The challenge for the rest of the world who have practiced capitalism since the beginning of time is the promotion of a fresh perspective to this age old theory and practice of economic relations.

Worse still, is the fact that western styled capitalism has been deceptive in its portrayal of its roots. Often left out of the Economic textbooks and minds of students is that the foundation and sustainability of western styled capitalism is accumulation by dispossession; the global poor must often be further impoverished for the global rich to be further enriched. From slavery, the genocide against the Amerindians, through colonialism to the present day era of unchecked economic exploitation especially where clueless leadership thrives, as found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, western-style capitalism has left tales of underdevelopment in its pursuance of increased profit.

Built and sustained by greed, the system soon began to unravel as the habit of exploitation initially targeted at weaker economies became internalized and used to exploit weaker citizens. The collapse of Enron and Worldcom, the Lehman Brothers, the Bernard Madoff and other similar scandals, the Greece and Spain crisis and delusionary bailouts, the perpetual Euro zone crisis and so much more all point to the extent of internal decay prevalent in western styled capitalism.

Greed fuelled western capitalism has proven unsustainable, even destructive. But before embarking on a hasty search to anoint a new – Chinese, perhaps – model for the herd to follow, a careful, detailed, and meticulous study of the successes and failures of western-style capitalism must be embarked upon. Yes, it did succeed in certain instances, and these must be researched and improved. The shortcomings, which are numerous, must be discarded as hot charcoals upon one’s hand, but its successes, should be clutched like a piece of diamond.

The new variant of capitalism must be founded on the simple, age long principles of trade. Bring this visible thing and take that visible thing. The deceit of building castles in the air in the name of sub-prime mortgages and related terms must be eschewed.  The new perspective of capitalism must recognize the human propensity to cheat when no one is watching, and therefore, ‘someone’ strong and tough must always watch;  proactive regulation will be critical,  but not to the extent that it will suffocate innovation, creativity and growth.

Very importantly, African countries must quit copying the west. Africans must learn to quit teaching Business and Economics students a failed model that has brought much misery to its originators, practitioners and the world at large. Policy makers in Africa should look to establish indigenous systems of trade that will work to strengthen the existing culture of hard work and brotherhood that thrive across the continent. In short the time has come for a new economic system to emerge, and having – for the most part – been insulated from the global economic crisis, the continent of Africa is placed in an excellent position to lead the rest of the world.

Chika is the author of Before We Set Sail available on, Barnes and Noble and other leading bookstores.


Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Essays


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7 responses to “Capitalism and the Search for a New Paradigm

  1. bukolaokedara

    June 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    You are speaking to deaf ears. The immigrants in diaspora just want their heard earned foreign currencies and purported security. The same system get people entangled in loans and mortgages and they get trapped and just party away. If you come to tell them something new, they practise it where they are and not in home countries.

    We shall keep talking.

    What I have noticed again is that individuals who live abroad can actually make things work on individual basis. currency weakning appears to be a blessing in disguise. If you learn any new system that is working for the west, let us try it at home.

  2. bukolaokedara

    June 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Let us keep saying our own. May our leaders learn to be pro active and become capitalist. That works eh?

  3. Victor Ameh

    July 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    1. The propensity to cheat is human and not Western. In premordial Afrocan societies, there were
    pockets of cheats here and there under the guise of trade. So, whatever model of capitalism is
    advocated for African economies will not guarantee the sanity and orderliness that we seek.

    2. A return to a simple …Bring this visible thing and take that visible thing, will not be feasible in this
    era as it is impractacable in the face of globalization. True, complexity in the global financial
    architecture helped to hasten and deepen the crises, it is not a sufficient ground to discard the
    baby and the bath water.

    • chikaforafrica

      July 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Interesting points, Victor. I guess it all comes down to objectively analysing western capitalism in order to retain the positive aspects and discard its numerous disadvantages. Fundamentally, however, is the need for a whole new system of exchange to undergird global political economhy. The present system is clearly unsustainable.

  4. Schrodinger

    July 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks Chika for bringing this to the front burner. The best of Capitalism has produced 1% “Rich” and 99% “Poor” people globally- it does not matter on which side of the divide you live. Climate Change and all other social issues we’ve got today came with capitalism that promotes “Profit” ahead of “People”. What was the “Occupy Movement” in the US all about? Could we have avoided climate change with a different dominant economic model other than capitalism driving our civilization? You can also read one of my articles :

    Chika, Jisi Ike Na Oru oooo!!

    • chikaforafrica

      July 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Thanks. You are absolutely right. The variant of capitalism being promoted around the world has no care for the future generation. It is all about instant gratification. Africa cannot afford to buy into that paradigm. Thanks for all your work on climate change in Africa.

  5. Anonymous

    July 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I can’t say enough what a wonderful blog this is. At the risk of being presumptuous, your’s is an African power ideology, and it is an ideology that’s too-little voiced in our media, and too-little advocated by major African World politicians. Reading it here at your blog is like mother’s milk.

    “The new variant of capitalism must be founded on the simple, age long principles of trade. Bring this visible thing and take that visible thing. The deceit of building castles in the air in the name of sub-prime mortgages and related terms must be eschewed.”

    I share your focus on the real economy and keeping financialization of global African markets at a minimum. But I think it’s important that the central role of liquidity in domestic currencies not be de-emphasized. Too-little and/or poorly targeted domestic currency issues are primary drivers in the slow-growth, stagnation, or recession of many African markets, continental and diasporic. Contrast the liberal liquidity policies of strong, growing markets like Ghana’s with the spectacles of the Zimbabwean government abdicating its money-supply authority in favor of foreign currencies, the french-speaking states allowing their currency to be managed by foreigners, and Zenawi bragging that he shepherded the agreement to allow the Chinese to build the AU headquarters, implicitly poor-mouthing African states’ monies. These moves are absurd. Governments need to provide the money supply their markets need for growth.

    The only thing holding many African World markets back is their politicians’ refusal to recognize, invest in, and capitalize on their greatest assets — the ingenuity of African men and women. That, and constantly looking over their shoulders, obsessed with playing catch-up with this or that foreign government, as you wrote above. Enough already. African markets will only grow like all markets do, and as African markets have grown in the past: through liberal, but targeted provision of liquidity to domestic entrepreneurs.


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