The Only Solution To “Wealth Supremacy” Is A Democratic Economy

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01-22-2024 ~ Our economy must center human outcomes rather than rising share prices, says social theorist and author Marjorie Kelly.

The extraction of wealth is a pathology of late capitalism and is defined by the cultural and political processes by which the rich establish themselves as the dominant class. Social theorist and organizer Marjorie Kelly labels this phenomenon “wealth supremacy” which is also the title of her latest book. But as she points out in this exclusive interview for Truthout, wealth supremacy, which has institutionalized greed, defines a system that is not only biased but rigged against the great bulk of the population and thus detrimental to the economy, the citizens and the planet. She argues, in turn, that a movement to build a democratic economy is our only way out. Kelly is Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Democracy Collaborative. In addition to Wealth Supremacy: How the Extractive Economy and the Biased Rules of Capitalism Drive Today’s Crises (2023), she is the author of The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just the Few (coauthored with Ted Howard; 2019). The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

C. J. Polychroniou: One of the most pronounced developments over the past 40 years within the global economy, and particularly within developed countries, is financialization — which means finance has come to dominate our economy, our culture, the natural world, even our ostensibly democratic politics. Some say financialization represents a new phase of capitalism, while others see it as a consequence of neoliberalism. Your recent book, Wealth Supremacy, analyzes the current form of capitalism and shines a light on what you perceive as its core problem, while also offering a vision of an alternative system, a democratic economy — along with pathways to get there. Let’s start with what you mean by “wealth supremacy,” and how, in your own view, financialization came to dominate over all other forms of economic activity.

Marjorie Kelly: We can’t fix a problem that we can’t name. We point to “corporate power,” “inequality” and “greed” as the problem. But these don’t get to the root of the system’s dysfunction. I call it wealth supremacy — the bias that institutionalizes infinite extraction of wealth for the wealthy, even as it means stagnation or losses for the rest of us. Personal greed is certainly operating. But the system problem is how greed is mandated, rewarded, normalized and institutionalized in the practices and institutions of the system.

It’s mandated in how investments are managed, how corporations are governed; the aim of both is maximum income to capital. In operation, wealth supremacy takes the form of capital bias — the way only capital votes in corporations, how a rising stock market is equated with a successful economy.

Neoliberal government policies let this capital-centric machine loose. The result was financialization — the churning out of more and more financial wealth.

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