Is Capitalism The Only Reality?

First published in Canvas: May 17th 2012

In April 2011, the Chinese media regulator (SARFT) took the unprecedented step of banning depictions of time travel in native feature films and television shows, stating that such output “disrespects history.” Hugely popular before the ban, time travel dramas such as Myth had centred around a person falling asleep, only to find themselves travelling back in time to ancient China where, after some adjustment, they find love and happiness. The rationale for the ban, said film critic and journalist Raymond Zhou Liming, was “that whatever isn’t possible in the real world belongs to superstition.” Clearly, he claimed, the authorities decided that time-travel, a common device in Chinese historical drama, allowed the protagonist to reorder reality, undermining the consensus that people are happy with the ruling Communist system.1

Though such a extreme measure is not perhaps unexpected, the Chinese are not alone in being told that there is no alternative to the economic philosophy their government has chosen. As far back as the 1870s, the world-famous philosopher Herbert Spencer claimed that there was no alternative to free market capitalism.Since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the British people have been told by successive governments that ‘there is no alternative’ to the free market. “It amounts simply to this,” Thatcher once said. “A nation’s continuing health and prosperity depend on the continuing health and prosperity of its industry…And who suffers? We all do if we refuse to face reality until it comes face to face with us. Then there is no alternative.”2

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