Rejoinder to David C. Korten.

Author:Brinkman, Richard L.
Position:Notes and Communications - Speeches and lectures

I will first address the three basic critiques of my paper raised by David Korten, followed by a brief, general assessment of Korten's "Response."

Nature and Origins

Korten confuses the date of the conception of capitalism with the origin of the reality of capitalism. My position is based upon many references to Korten's contribution. It is not simply a conclusion derived from The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism (1999, 39) as alleged by Korten in his response. Korten stated that "our choice as a species is basically between life after capitalism" and societal and environmental collapse (1999, 16). A benign market economy, derived from the market theory of Smith, has been consumed by a cancerous capitalism. Defining capitalism in unique terms as "the unequal control of productive capital," Korten dates capitalism back some "5,000 years to the Mesopotamian Civilization." When then did capitalism become cancerous? I find it hard to assume that capitalism existed 5,000 years ago without the prerequisite institutions of business enterprise, such as double-entry bookkeeping, legal buttresses, or commercial banking, let alone something akin to a market economy and a legalized institutionalization of private property. If I employ productive capital equipment in the form of a fishnet, or a hoe, does this make me a capitalist or the economic system that of capitalism?

Elsewhere, Korten confines the reality of capitalism to a more restricted period of the late nineteenth century. Korten repeatedly stated that "markets and capitalism are mutually exclusive" and said, "Capitalism against the Market" (1999, 38, 42; 2001, 8, 104, 331). Capitalism in this context is assumed to be composed of "very large" firms, "[c]entrally planned by megacorporations," which places capitalism in the late nineteenth century when capitalism was first conceptualized as such (not Mesopotamia or 1776). A market economy is characterized by an atomistic society envisaged by Smith in 1776 (1999, 38-39), and, also, "competition is the key to the self-organizing dynamics of a market economy" (1999, 43; 2001, 81). Korten's vision is more akin to that of the Chicago School: "characterized by proposals to change the real economic world according to the requisites of its ideal type--laissez-faire capitalism" (Samuels 1975, 489).

Korten has stated that prior to 1870 the American economy constituted "a world still close to the ideal of Adam Smith" and in other instances dates the...

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