An Introduction to Capitalism

An education series from Economic and Social Research Aotearoa: These are introductory workshops – no prior knowledge is necessary! more

19 September 2018
19 September 2018

No one needs to be introduced to capitalism. Capitalism shapes everybody’s day to day existence in a profound way, affecting everything from the food we eat to the work we do. Yet we seldom pause to consider its origins and its particular way of doing things. The practices, ideas and ideals of capitalism have become fully normalised to us and we’ve reached a point where for many it seems impossible to imagine living in another world. This ESRA education series considers the history of capitalism, the way it operates, and why it has to end, allowing us to take a step back and really think about the economic system that structures our world. Each session will run for an hour and a half, beginning with a brief introductory talk followed by group discussion and debate. Although they work as a whole, attendance at each session is not mandatory: come and go as you please. 

Every Wednesday, 26 Sept – 10 Oct
Auckland Trades Hall
147 Great North Road
Grey Lynn
Refreshments provided

1. How it started – 26th September
Homo Sapiens evolved around 200,000 years ago. It’s been 10,000 years since the development of agriculture led to us living together in big groups, from which society as we know it sprung. By contrast, capitalism only really came in to being about 200 years ago. If it hasn’t been around forever, why did it spring up when it did? What was it replacing? How was it brought into being? And why is this still relevant today? This session will explore these questions, examine the nature of capitalism and its relationship to colonisation, and prime us for the next two weeks.

2. How it works – 3rd October
Once capitalism has established a situation where some people have to work to live and some can live off the work of others, it needs to maintain this social inequality to continue. Why are we paid wages? Why are some types of work paid more than others? Why are some social groups paid more than others? Where does profit come from? This session will explore these questions and examine how capitalism functions by exploiting workers in order to produce profits, how higher productivity actually leads to greater inequality, and how the power of workers uniting to resist exploitation has led to higher wages and better working conditions historically. 

3. Why it has to end – 10th October
We are faced with deepening collective crises. Climate change, financial crises, housing crises, unprecedented levels of inequality and deprivation are only a few of the issues produced by capitalism. If wealth and productivity are greater than ever, why are wages so low and poverty rates so high? Where do these crises come from? Why is it so hard to deal with them? This final session looks at some of the structural problems and crisis tendencies of capitalism and why capitalism itself is incapable of solving them. It will then open into collectively thinking about how we can practice and imagine alternative social and economic ways of organising.