• The End of Capitalism - A speech by Immanuel Wallerstein in Helsinki

  • 12 Mar 08
  • Immanuel Wallerstein talked to an audience of 500 people at the Old Student Union House in Helsinki on Wednesday, March 5, 2008. The talk was part of a bigger event, Capitalism '08. The possibilities of a freer future. The house was one of the main venues of the 1968 radical student movement in Finland. Other international speakers of the event were Rodrigo Nunes, Ruth Reitan and Peter Waterman.

    The topic of Immanuel Wallerstein's lecture was "The chaotic state of the world-system". Wallerstein predicted that capitalism is drifiting toward its end -- not through a revolution -- but because the system is not profitable enough for the capitalists themselves. According to Wallerstein, the reason for this is that the price of labour has been increasing since the birth of capitalism around the 15th century.

    This becomes evident when one, for example, considers the upper middle class of the year 1939. In those times, families had servants, but nowadays almost no-one has a servant because of the raise in salaries. Another example would be the wage level of a metal worker in the 60's compared to the present.

    In the afternoon, the possibilities of a post-capitalist future were discussed in a panel led by Teivo Teivainen (see above). The late afternoon consisted of workshops on the themes work, expansion and human.

    In the evening, the world-political rock party filled club Dubrovnik to its capacity and beyond.

    The events were organized by Left Forum, Attac at the University of Helsinki, Political Science Department of the University of Helsinki, NIGD, KSL Civic Association for Adult Learning, Finnish Construction Trade Union, Le monde diplomatique (Finland) and Demokratiafoorumi VK.

    Wallerstein's thesis certainly has echos from Marx's law of decreasing rate of profits, according to which the ratio of profit to the invested capital decreases in the long run.