SDG Talk blog by team TheRockGroup
Sjors Roeters is a journalist at Vrij Nederland, his main field of research is the world of capitalism, its problems, and its causes. He holds a Master’s degree in European Studies and Literature Studies and is, the same time, an alumnus of the Universities of Amsterdam, Leiden and Rio de Janeiro.
Capitalism has been a dominant economic system for centuries, shaping our societies, politics, and cultures. However, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of it, and it can be challenging to pinpoint its essential features.
One common misconception about capitalism is that it is all about money and trade. In reality, money is just an accounting system that has existed for thousands of years before capitalism became a thing. Capitalism is not only about entrepreneurship either. It is a system based on private ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods and services, with the primary goal of accumulating capital and generating profit.
Moreover, capitalism is not a democratic system, as the top minority decides what to produce, how to produce it, and where to produce it. Some authors describe capitalism as a private dictatorship in contrast to a public one.
So, what is capitalism? It depends on which aspects you focus on. Some argue that capitalism is characterized by the separation of labor and capital, while others emphasize the institutional definition of capitalism, which involves the flow of goods through profit motives and the growth of capitalist logic. According to these perspectives, growth is a primary task of capitalism, and neoclassical economists claim that it gives us well-being and progress.
Another significant topic discussed was the relationship between the North and South. It is commonly believed that the South is dependent on the North. However, the speaker highlighted that 80% of the materials used in the North come from the South. This indicates that the North is, in fact, mostly dependent on the South.
The concept of degrowth was also discussed during the Talk. The speaker presented some alternative perspectives to degrowth, such as decommodification. Decommodification involves for example creating universal health care, education, and water accessibility. He gave an example of a company in Spain that follows these principles and operates on a cooperative model, showing that alternatives to the traditional capitalist model do exist.
After the talk, there was a question-and-answer session, which provided an opportunity for the attendees to clarify their doubts and engage in a lively discussion. The speaker addressed the questions and provided insightful responses that enriched the audience’s understanding of capitalism.
Following the Q&A session, attendees mingled and networked over drinks, sharing their perspectives and experiences.