Capitalism, like other systems of oppression, is the water we swim in. Its ubiquity makes it incredibly challenging to notice how it affects us. Whether we notice it or not, it gets into our minds and our lives and our behavior. Capitalism has its own set of values that likely do not align with your own, but if you don’t recognize them, you’re liable to live your life as though they did. It takes concerted effort to see them and interrupt them.
This list is surely incomplete and is, admittedly, over-simplified for the sake of this blog post. Capitalism is racialized and gendered. Capitalism exists on the backs of white supremacy and patriarchy; these systems require each other. But for the sake of clarity here, I’m addressing capitalism singularly in order to help us understand it, so that we may be better equipped to take it down. Here goes!
Slowness is anti-capitalist.
Getting as much work done as possible in as little time as possible is a deeply held capitalist norm. Most of us (self-employed or no) sprint through our lives this way, always trying to maximize our results and minimize our efforts. It’s an inherently extractive paradigm.
When you’re an employee who works for a boss, the boss is the one trying to extract your labor, but when you work for yourself, you’re both the boss and the laborer, the extractor and the extracted. Let yourself slow down. Be your own good boss. There’s no rush. Divest from the paradigm of hurry up.
Generosity is anti-capitalist.
The richest people are the least generous among us, studies show. Those with very little money are more likely to share it, lend it, and give it away. What little they do have is treated as a community resource, rather than a personal possession to be squirreled away and never touched or spoken of.
When we give to another person, it requires us to really see them, in their struggles and pain. Generosity has within it, compassion. Capitalism runs on always trying to get a little more than you already have. When we give away what we have, we’re divesting from the norm of accumulation.
Inconsistency is anti-capitalist.
The myth of consistency is harming us. Most of us look at our most productive days and expect that every day should be just as productive. But it’s not possible. It’s not how nature works (and guess what? You’re a part of nature!)
When plants grow, it’s not slow and steady. It’s often days or weeks of seemingly no change, and then suddenly, bam! The seed has sprouted and is pushing towards the sun. You’ll see weeks of imperceptible growth and no blooms, followed by days of abundant unfurling flowers.
Your work does not have to be consistent. Take hours off. Take days off. Take weeks off. Don’t feel guilty. Divest from the paradigm of constant work.
Connection is anti-capitalist.
Capitalism teaches us (whether we’re conscious of it or not) to always be trying to prioritize our own needs over the collective well-being. It teaches us to do for yourself (and your family maybe) alone, and everyone else is on their own. It’s every person for themself.
This way of being is soul-crushing. It forces us to ignore the suffering of other people in order to try to “get ahead”, and it is deeply dehumanizing. It encourages us to shun or pity people with less than us, and judge or resent people with more than us.
It’s possible to account for the differences in our lived realities while not reducing someone else to a stereotype about “poor people” or “rich people.” When we practice seeing other humans as just that, human, it’s pushing back against this capitalist norm.
Transparency is anti-capitalist.
We’re pretty well trained not to talk about money. It’s rude to discuss your family’s wealth (or lack thereof); in some cases it’s actually prohibited to divulge the amount of your salary. Who benefits from this secrecy? What do we gain by participating in it? Start talking about money with your friends, family, and clients. It might be uncomfortable at first, but it helps us to see the underpinnings of the myths we believe about how money works.
A few years ago I started asking any friend who was buying a house how they got the money to pay the down payment. Nearly every single one admitted they received help from family to be able to afford buying a house. If we dig a little deeper, most will point to some dubious source of how the family came to have that money. But we don’t hear those stories very often. The ones we hear are of bootstraps and hard work, and those are incomplete at best and incorrect at worst.
Being transparent about our money, and asking those close to us to do the same, isn’t rude; it’s radical.
When we can see the oppressive qualities of capitalism, we can interrupt them. When we can interrupt them, we can replace them with more aligned qualities.
Try these on! Tell me what you think. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
I’m teaching more about practices for anti-capitalism in
Part One deals with how to set your rates. Part Two delves into how to keep your work financially accessible.