Contradictions in the Universalization of Capitalism


  • John Bellamy Foster



Political Economy


A central, perhaps the central, idea of economic liberalism has always been that a market society organized on the basis of individual self-interest is the natural state of humankind, and that such a society is bound to prosper—through an almost providential invisible hand—provided that no external barriers stand in its way. In this view all of human history is nothing more than the gradual freeing up of market relations—the release of the universal and rational forms of society only waiting to be let loose. "In most accounts of capitalism," Ellen Meiksins Wood has critically observed, "there really is no beginning. Capitalism seems always to be there, somewhere; and it only needs to be released from its chains—for instance, from the fetters of feudalism—to be allowed to grow and mature."

This article can also be found at the Monthly Review website, where most recent articles are published in full.

Click here to purchase a PDF version of this article at the Monthly Review website.