Late-stage capitalism: what is it and what are its main features

Oluwatoni Olujinmi

Early modern merchants and traders amassing fortune via the sale and purchase of commodities and services are considered the progenitors of capitalism. 

Products and services are manufactured, traded, and delivered through a system of interconnected markets and institutions that has developed over time.

The systemic difficulties and contradictions of capitalism have reached a breaking point, and we are now living in their aftermath. In this article is all you need to know about what late stage capitalism is.

Definition and history of late stage capitalism

One common way to describe the problems with contemporary capitalism is the “late-stage capitalism,” which refers to the system’s instability, economic inequality, environmental destruction, and accumulation of power and wealth in the hands of a few people and corporations.

It was in late 16th-century Europe when capitalism first took root. Capitalism has developed and gone through numerous phases over the last few centuries, from mercantilism through industrial capitalism to neoliberal capitalism. The accumulation of money and the exploitative use of labor have been constants throughout all of these stages.

Growth, competition, and new ideas were hallmarks of early capitalism. However, the system’s vulnerability to disasters and contradictions grew as it aged. Capitalism was threatened by several events in the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the growth of socialist and communist groups, such as World War II and the Great Depression.

As a result of technological advancements, increased international trade, and the development of new consumer markets, capitalism had a period of explosive growth in the decades following World War II. However, increasing disparities in wealth, degradation of the environment, and social unrest were also hallmarks of this period of prosperity.

The features of late stage capitalism

Several distinguishing characteristics characterize late-stage capitalism. The worldwide expansion of business and manufacturing is a major factor. As a result of globalization, multinational corporations (MNCs) have emerged as major global players. These companies have taken advantage of the low cost of workforce in developing countries by paying their employees extremely low wages and providing unsafe working environments.

Another feature of advanced capitalist economies is their increasing financialization. This is a reference to the expanding role of financial institutions like banks and hedge funds in today’s society. Derivatives and other sophisticated financial products emerged as a direct result of financialization and are often held responsible for triggering the global financial crisis of 2008. Additionally, financialization has contributed to the accumulation of wealth and the consolidation of power among a small group of financial elites.

Income and wealth inequalities widen in late-stage capitalism. The wealthiest one percent of earners in many prosperous nations now control an outsized share of the wealth, while the bottom half have seen their wages either remain flat or fall. Government actions that are in favor of the wealthy have contributed to this inequality by, for example, reducing taxes on the wealthiest while cutting funding for social services for the poor.

How to fix late-stage capitalism 

Fixing late-stage capitalism can only be in place when the underlying cause is known. Below are the effects of late stage capitalism:

1. The effects of late-stage capitalism on the natural world are particularly devastating

Ecosystem collapse, degradation of earth’s resources, and the release of greenhouse gases that exacerbate global warming are all direct results of businesses prioritizing profit over all else. Many businesses, despite the obvious urgency of addressing environmental issues, still put profits ahead of sustainability.

2. The benefits of capitalism can’t be replicated in socialist or command economies

As a result, we get superior goods at rock-bottom pricing. What people want the most is worth more money to them. Companies cater to client needs. As a result of competition, costs are kept to a minimum. Companies strive for maximum productivity in their manufacturing processes. Innovation is encouraged, and as a result, productivity rises and the economy expands.

3. Capitalism does not support refugee programs or quotas

Businesses only advocate for open borders if they can hire highly qualified tech workers or low-wage workers. Because of this, the racial wealth inequality that slavery in the United States helped to build has persisted. Diversity and the innovations it fosters are therefore lost to society. Diversity in the United States has led to increased commercial creativity, which government officials should recognize. A diverse corporate team has significant social and financial benefits for both businesses and society at large.

4. Capitalism is indifferent to issues of fairness

Those without access to adequate food, shelter, and education are disregarded. There’s no way they’ll make it to the field. Governments should instead ensure educational equality for all citizens. This ensures that all trainees receive optimal instruction. A skilled and hardworking labor force is beneficial to economic growth.

Late-stage capitalism problems must be resolved for a sustainable future

Economic inequality, environmental deterioration, and the amount of power and wealth in the grasp of a handful of individuals and corporations are all hallmarks of late stage capitalism, which is itself a complex and varied phenomenon.

Despite its many advantages, the capitalist system is riddled with problems and contradictions that must be resolved if we are to create a better, more just and sustainable future.

Read also: Postcapitalism: what is it and what are the main principles of this potential economic model

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