Wither Zimbabwe? Is the country heading in the wrong direction?


Guardian writer George Monbiot says capitalism is now a problem. “It is a weapon pointed at the living world. We urgently need to develop a new system.”

Nitin Nohria, the dean of one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, Harvard Business School, says one of the most significant challenges the school faces today is the erosion of faith in capitalism and business world at large.

The Guardian, one of the leading newspapers in the United Kingdom, is running a series entitled “Broken Capitalism”.

Zimbabwe, which was isolated by the world for nearly two decades when it embarked on its land reform programme and also introduced an indigenisation policy which said locals should own 51 percent of any business worth more than US$500 000, has ditched that policy and has opened up its economy to the world. It has also liberalised its currency and prices have spiraled.

Zimbabweans have been assured that these are “growing pains” that will soon be over. The austerity measures, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube says, should not last more than a year.

With the capitals of capitalism now arguing that the system is not working, one is bound to ask: Is Zimbabwe heading in the right or wrong direction?

Below is one of the articles in the Broken Capitalism series entitled: Capitalism is failing. People want a job with a decent wage – why is that so hard?

Before capitalism, there was work. Before markets, before even money, there was work. Our remotest ancestors, hunting and gathering, almost certainly did not see work as a separate, compartmentalised part of life in the way we do today. But we have always had to work to live. Even in the 21st century, we strive through work for the means to live, hence the campaign for a “living wage”.

As a species, we like to define ourselves through our thoughts and wisdom, as Homo sapiens. But we could as easily do so through the way we consciously apply effort towards certain goals, by our work – as Homo laborans. It nonetheless took two revolutions, one agricultural, one industrial, to turn “work” into its own category.

Industrial capitalism sliced and diced human time into clearly demarcated chunks, of “work” and “leisure”. Work was then bundled and packaged into one of the most important inventions of the modern era: a job. From this point on, the workers’ fight was for a job that delivered maximum benefits, especially in terms of wages, in return for minimum costs imposed on the worker, especially in terms of time.

For Karl Marx, the whole capitalist system was ineluctably rigged against workers. Whatever the short-run victories of the trade unions, the capitalist retained the power; the ultimate control, over workers’ time. And the worker would remain forever alienated from their work. The goal was to assert sovereignty over our own time, free of the temporal control of the capitalist, able “to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner”.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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