Reports from the Front Lines of Capitalism

Arundhati Roy Says Corporatism Is Haunting the World

Reports from the Front Lines of Capitalism

If you think America is suffering from severe income equality, Arundhati Roy would like to talk to you for a moment about the largest democracy in the world: "In a nation of 1.2 billion, India's one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of the GDP." This is the first page of the first chapter of her new essay collection, Capitalism: A Ghost Story, and the news doesn't improve from there. Over fewer than a hundred pages, Roy lays horror upon horror, describing a world where the United States' promise of democracy and capitalism has gone sour, and the specter of corporatism haunts the globe.

Capitalism is a brief, up-to-date portrait of India as a political entity. But you don't have to squint too hard to find parallels with the United States in, say, the portion where Roy rages against the sale of telecoms to large corporations. And her description of the Disneyfication of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy "to fit a market-friendly format" through corporate philanthropy should make every global citizen angry. (The culprits include General Motors and Monsanto, and if you need proof that King's message has been diluted by these companies, Roy offers the name of a Martin Luther King Jr. lecture series sponsored by corporate philanthropy: "The Free Enterprise System: An Agent for Nonviolent Social Change." It takes guts to reposition King as a Ron Paul–style libertarian.)

For such a thin book, Capitalism covers a lot of ground. Roy addresses the supposedly feminist battle over burkas, which in France has become "not about liberating her but unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism." She highlights the tension between India and Pakistan, which has increased to the point where agencies in Kashmir are releasing "survival tips" to the public in case of nuclear war. And she closes the book with a simple list of four demands, as a way to combat inequality.

Five years ago, this book would have felt revolutionary, but now—as Roy points out, thanks to the Occupy movement changing the conversation—Capitalism feels like straight reportage from the front lines of a war. In every part of the world, the rich few keep getting richer on the backs of a population that continues to work harder and grow poorer for it. And Roy keeps sending these furious, intelligent bulletins to alert us to what's going on. More people than ever are listening to her. recommended

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Comments (9) RSS

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Well of course inequality would be somewhat worse in India under capitalism, after all, the British East India Company (you know the former ruler of the American colonies, whence comes the American flag design***)ruled India around four times longer than they ruled the American colonies, hence their situation!

Posted by sgt_doom on May 22, 2014 at 7:05 PM · Report this


Similarly I've been reading a history of the Congo...ruled by the tiny country of Belgium. Quite horrible, during, after, and up until today.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 27, 2014 at 5:42 PM · Report this
@1 & 2

Pots critique of kettle is always amusing, made ever so much more delightful by the clamoring of the ladle and the spit.
Posted by Animated Iron-y on May 27, 2014 at 6:02 PM · Report this
Capitalism is dead.

So, what shall we call the next system of exploitation?
Posted by Change is not a future tense verb on May 27, 2014 at 6:09 PM · Report this


I'd respond, but it sounds like your dish ran away with the spoon.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 27, 2014 at 6:23 PM · Report this
Speaking of capitalism, my Amazon review of the essay "Too Many People?" refutes that we are living under such a system. Today, we live under pure Marxist ideology. Capitalism is word we(they) use to control people who might object. That is plain to see by the number of those who criticize it daily and that the wealthiest people in the world are Democrats.

There's only one answer. Yes., May 27, 2014…

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 27, 2014 at 8:31 PM · Report this
the S&P 500 returned like 30 % last year. corporations r winning record profits. capitalism is about rewarding ownership of means of production and provision of credit. my IRA poppin. we live under capitalism. it's the only workable system

India has more anti-capitalist rules than China does and suffers for it. when India and Latin Europe finally liberalize, the world economy will go even more bonkers.

some of mrs. Roy's demands r sensible. she's obviously hella smart. she gotta c that Pakistan and India - and all big countries situated side by side - gonna rumble
Posted by alfresco on May 27, 2014 at 10:59 PM · Report this
You do NOT live under "capitalism", you live under CONSUMERISM. This is a vastly different and destructive animal.
Posted by hermes60 on May 28, 2014 at 8:48 AM · Report this
how do u mean? I think that's a passable synonym, or substitute, for the "late capitalism" terminology. certainly it's apt when consumption is so much more voluminous than private investment and public investment, combined, and when variations in aggregate consumer license decide the magnitude and location of investment and the employment rate

it still seems like a mature capitalism, tho
Posted by alfresco on May 30, 2014 at 1:52 AM · Report this

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