By Francois Houtart – The issue we face today is a crisis with multiple aspects, for which I would first like to offer an analysis. Beyond that, moreover, I would like to look ahead to an utopia, and to the question: How can a solution to this crisis move us beyond the parameters of capitalism?
1. The Dimensions of Crisis
The crisis is not only a financial one. Of course, attention today is focused on this aspect, but it is much more than that. It is also an economic crisis, which could lead to a world depression, with all the accompanying social ramifications. In addition moreover, we are also experiencing a food crisis, an energy crisis and a climate crisis. Ultimately, an analysis of the overall situation suggests that we are facing a real crisis of civilisation.
Therefore, the major challenge is precisely how to find new parameters for the collective life of humankind. Financial crises are of course a recurrent phenomenon in the history of capitalism; the present one, however, has some particularities. It is linked, as has been true of past crises, with over-production and under-consumption. In the productive sphere, according to liberal theory, that is a healthy phenomenon, since it supposedly eliminates the bad elements of the economic system and creates the conditions for a fresh start. Certainly, it is a mechanism for reducing the cost of production, in particular of commodities and labour. Today, thanks to globalisation, the economic system also has a better tool kit available to it to deal with financial crisis than was the case during the 1929-’30 period, including both a new material base, especially new technologies, but also new instruments for operating the system itself. During the thirties for example, the issue of the quasi-nationalisation of banks did not even arise.