Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Late-stage? As in Late-stage Capitalism?
You may know it as a kind of catchphrase of the ‘too online’ left, almost a meme by now, but the term, and concept, date back to the turn of the twentieth century, and have significant meaning and value in understanding where we all currently sit in time.
Not particularly well-known German economist Werner Sombart first coined the term in an analysis of the different stages of capitalism. Sombart held views on the economic theory that ran contrary to the norm. Capitalism is by no means a “new” phenomenon, with many dating it back (in name) to the early 1700s and Adam Smith, John Locke, etc. The common understanding is that "capitalism" as we know it today was all cementing itself together conceptually during the industrial revolution. Sombart gave Smith, Locke, and this view of history less credit than most, however, and saw it as a kind of phenomenon that long pre-dated them.
He referred to a 'pre-capitalist' life before their ‘theorizing’ (or life before capitalism’s entry into the mainstream discourse), as “proto-capitalist society” (from the early middle ages up to 1500 AD). This was followed by the stage of “early capitalism,” a 300-year stretch from roughly 1500–1800. Locke was still about 150 years shy of existing when Sombart declares capitalism born, and Smith about 250 years away. Sombart recognized that next came Smith and Locke’s “heyday of capitalism (Hochkapitalismus),” which he positioned himself squarely at the end of, as it carried on until just about the beginning of the first World War (which he was likely trying to understand & explain via his theorizing). Finally, and for us most importantly, we arrive at “late capitalism” from WWI on.
The term didn’t really catch on until socialists in the 30s adopted it - Derrida famously preferred the term “neo-capitalism.” Though it has remained in the leftist lexicon in relative obscurity ever since, it has been coming back into common use, and is morphing into "late-stage capitalism." The adaptation probably borrows from 'late-stage illnesses' and the inherent pejorative link between the two metaphorically, but nonetheless the concept is back!
So what’s the Link?
For starters, we’re all reporting live from “Late Capitalism” in truth, but we here at LST directly subscribe to the notion that we are actually living in it. We believe that there’s only so much you can borrow, only so much credit one can accrue, only so much nature to pave, so much water to drink, waste, or pollute, and so on. The internal logic of modern-day capitalism is flawed, perhaps because as an advent of the industrial revolution, when the world itself seemed boundless and limitless with land yet to be discovered, it was coded with the internal logic of its time, a time that has long since come and gone. We know our limits, resource-wise; we see an end in sight, and we’re hurtling towards it at breakneck speed.
Are we anti-capitalism then? Some of us. Socialists? Not necessarily. Some are that, too. Some are anarcho-syndicalists, Luxemburgists, some are even capitalists(!), but all of us are reformists who recognize a need for change, and see that the way we’ve been doing things has lead us astray and on a self-destructive path. We may not all be chipping away “together,” mining the same tunnels, but we’re all tunneling under the same mountain, weakening its structural integrity (hopefully) collectively.
So what IS The Late Stage Tribune?
We are a collective of writers, in short, but in long form we are also musicians, teachers, painters, photographers, beer brewers, accountants, and whatever else it is that we do in our work or spare time. All of the hats we’ve put on over the years have culminated in this “project” – we bring those passions into this, and hope to create a multimedia space that reflects all of those interests, and informs others about them. The goal, ultimately, is to bring folks together from all walks of life to discuss and advance those shared interests.
In short, we’re hoping to build a kind of online communal space for anyone with a serious passion for anything (combined with a passion for systemic change and progress). Yes, we’ll write some articles here, but so, hopefully, will you(?). And we’ll meet people, and congregate, and build.
Why? Because it’s our belief that real progress will come about through actual work. Central to any culture war is an actual culture and those who spend all their time talking about it—arguing and posturing for followers—might have forgotten that part. So we have an advantage, perhaps! If we do the work required to enact the kind of fair & just, equitable, intersectionally diverse modes of existence we hope to see in the world, we will not only be advancing our causes, but showing the value and dynamism of our ideals through our success! So here we come! Together!
- From the Editorial Staff of The Late Stage Tribune