Capitalist Societies in the Future

What Will Happen in Capitalist Societies in the Future?

Dialogue on the Future of Modern Civilization

Human Society is Developing Dialectically

TJ: What will happen in capitalist societies in the future?
TASAKA: This question is an extremely important one today at a moment when global capitalism is being confronted by some extremely serious obstacles. But because the question is historical in its dimensions, simply relying on a “technology to predict the future” will not provide the answers. What we need, instead, is to understand a “philosophy to foresee the future.” In other words, we need to understand a philosophy that talks about the laws that underlie change, development and evolution in our world.

TJ: What kind of philosophy is the philosophy to foresee the future?
TASAKA: The dialectic. In Western philosophy, the dialectic began in Greece with Socrates and was systematized by Georg Hegel, the German idealist philosopher. Also, Karl Marx used this philosophy in his theory of social change, and Jean-Paul Sartre discussed its tenets in the context of existentialism. In Eastern philosophy, as well, the dialectic has been dealt with at a profound level by Buddhist, Taoist, Tantric Buddhist, Zen and other thinkers. The dialectic offers two laws in particular that are extremely helpful when foreseeing the future of capitalist societies: the “law of development through a spiral process” and the “law of development through interpenetration of opposing objects.”

TJ: What is the law of development through a spiral process ?
TASAKA: This is the law which says that the world develops as if it were climbing a spiral staircase. In other words, if you look from the side at people ascending a spiral staircase, they appear to be progressing and developing because they are heading upward. However, if you look at them from above, they complete one revolution and return to their original positions. Therefore, it appears that the revival and restoration of old things occur. But on a spiral staircase, people do not merely return to their original positions. They always move to a higher level. Similarly, in “spiral development” there is not simply revival and restoration. Rather, something develops to a new stage and this enables old things to add new value as they are revived and restored.

TJ: What are specif ic examples of the law of development through a spiral process?
TASAKA: For example, two leading-edge business models that have emerged from the Internet revolution: the “Internet auction” and the “reverse auction.” These models are, in fact, revivals of old nostalgic business models. Previously, before the development of capitalism, trading methods such as “bidding” and “limit pricing” existed in every market. Having once been eclipsed by the development of capitalism demanding rationalization, they have gained new life as
a result of the Internet revolution. But there is a difference. While one could bid or limit prices with only several hundreds of people in the past, Internet auctions and reverse auctions can involve millions of participants. These methods have indeed revived at a higher level of the spiral staircase. Likewise, email represents a revival of the nostalgic culture of “letter writing” within the context of a new system. And e-learning is certainly the revival of “private tutoring” and other
forms of individualized learning in a more advanced and sophisticated form.

TJ: What then is the law of development through interpenetration of opposing objects?
TASAKA: It is the law which says that things which oppose and compete with each other come to resemble each other through interpenetration. For example, the policies of opposing political parties, such as those of the Labour Party and the Conservatives in Great Britain, end up becoming alike. The
way in which capitalism and socialism have learned from each other’s policies, adopting approaches to social welfare on the one hand and the principles of market competition on the other, is another case in point. tj

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Written By:

Hiroshi Tasaka

Tokyo Journal columnist Hiroshi Tasaka is President of Think Tank SophiaBank, Former Special Advisor to Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council Member and Tama University Professor. He graduated from the University of Tokyo with a Ph. D. in Nuclear Engineering in 1981. From 1987, he worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute and also at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in the USA. In 1990, he participated in founding the Japan Research Institute. In 2000, he became a Professor at Tama University in Tokyo and founded Think Tank SophiaBank. Dr. Tasaka is a philosopher who has put forward a wide range of ideas, theories and philosophies. He is the author of more than 60 books.

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