Alternatives to Capitalism

We need a system that will work for everyone

Faron Sage
12 min readNov 13, 2023


Alternatives to Capitalism by Faron Sage

It feels like most of the citizens of this world now agree that the systems we’ve settled on for organising humankind are not best serving us or the planet that we inhabit. There are differences of opinion as to whether our societies are about to collapse or just need a bit of remedial work but there does seem to be a growing consensus that something needs to fundamentally change.

At the heart of our current system of global governance is capitalism, an economic and political system based on private ownership of the world’s trade and industry and its operation for profit. So the primary driver for the system that governs the world is the generation of profit and the accumulation of financial wealth.

Sociologist Allan G. Johnson summed up the implications of the nature of capitalism in his 2013 essay, If Not Capitalism, What?

If you look at most human societies over the last several hundred thousand years, the point of economic systems has been quite simple and unsurprising—to provide for the needs of the people who participate in them…The most important thing to realize about industrial capitalism is that it is not organized to meet the needs of the people who participate in it…If capitalism does happen to meet the needs of people, that’s fine, but that is not the point of the system. The point is to allow individuals to compete with one another in order to maximize personal wealth…This means that when a small portion of the population manages to take most of the wealth for themselves, the system is simply operating as it is designed to do.

To most societies in human history, this system would seem insane and dangerously self-destructive. It is true that capitalism has proved incredibly resilient and adaptive but it’s also hard to argue against the repeated predictions that the system will eventually destroy itself. It’s not a sustainable approach to meeting the needs of the world’s population. Instead, it’s a psychopathic excuse for a small minority to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else. It’s no wonder that our global structures are now creaking at the edges, seemingly teetering on the brink of collapse — all a far cry from Margaret Thatcher’s famous decree that “there is no alternative.” It’s also no surprise, therefore, that many people are now actively looking for an alternative. And having just released a song bemoaning the fact that alternative systems are being ignored by the powers that be, it seems only right to explore the other possibilities in more detail.

No Alternative by Faron Sage


So, what could this alternative system look like and how might we get there? Well, I can’t think of many questions that would open a bigger can of worms! There’s a dizzying array of different ideas and opinions on the best systems for organising humanity and many of them are strongly opposed to each other’s ideologies and beliefs. I’m not going to try to critique the options in an attempt to come up with a winner — that would be a very capitalist approach! But I do find it curious that there’s not more overt discussion and exploration of alternative systems when the one we have appears to be on its last legs. It’s as if everyone is still blindly nodding at Margaret Thatcher’s decree.

What I would like to do here is present some of the alternatives to capitalism in the hope that these ideas will start to permeate our societies from the ground up and the inside out. There appears to be a stubborn resistance to entertaining any kind of change from the top down, which is not surprising when you consider that those who rise to the top of the capitalist system are bound to be the most indoctrinated and therefore fundamentally opposed to any alternative. So change will have to come from the grass roots up.

Whatever the new system looks like, it will have to emerge from the shadow of capitalism, a system that has profoundly affected everyone and everything on the planet. However invested we are in the system, or however opposed we are to it, we’ve all grown up and had to find our way in a world dominated by capitalism. Its legacy is part of all of us and therefore we can reasonably refer to the system that will follow, whatever that is, as post-capitalism.

Evolved capitalism

To say “there is no alternative” to capitalism actually couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are so many alternative ideas that it can be completely overwhelming to try and get to grips with them all, especially when you consider that we’re talking about the design of a system for organising humankind and how we live on this planet. The designs that have been devised are, by their very nature, detailed and complex with many potential overlapping aspects. Even if the overall concept is relatively simple, it still needs to be worked through and applied to all the component parts of society. As a result, every proposed approach is subtly different with some agreeing on certain points and disagreeing on others. In an attempt to distill some of these myriad possibilities into more general philosophies, I have divided some of the major concepts into wider categories.

The first of these I call evolved capitalism. By this I mean proposed systems that seek to broadly retain the capitalist ethos and structures but transition to a more sustainable and equitable variation to where we are now. This tends to involve stepping back from a pure financial interpretation of capitalism and widening the philosophy to incorporate other forms of “capital,” not just money.

In his book, Capitalism: As If the World Matters, Jonathan Porritt proposes a framework for sustainability that he calls “The Five Capitals.” So in this model, financial capital is only part of the picture and we must also take into account human, social, natural and manufactured capital. This is an acknowledgement that money alone does not make the world go round. There’s a lot more to life and this needs to be taken into account when formulating our social and economic systems. Otherwise it’s no surprise when the outcome is harsh and dehumanised.

Other proposed systems that fall under the evolved capitalism heading also show a desire to expand the definition of “capital” and incorporate elements into capitalism that consider the welfare of humanity, the natural world and the sustainability of the system itself. These include models like Robert Heinlein’s Heritage Check System and Firewall Economics, both of which seek to apply restrictions to the market economy and the control of banks and governments in order to steer us towards a more equitable system. Meanwhile, approaches like the Economy for the Common Good and Community Capitalism are alternative economic models designed to serve the well-being of the wider community in a sustainable way.


The ideology that is often portrayed as directly opposing capitalism is socialism. In reality, this is once again a broad category of potential systems with many variations, ranging from approaches that have a lot in common with some of the evolved capitalist ideas above to models that are more fundamentally opposed to any form of hierarchy and are closer in ethos to anarchism — more on that below. However, the major distinction is that socialism is based on social ownership and control of the means of production and political decision-making, as opposed to the private ownership and control of capitalism. Social ownership means ownership by the community as a whole, so that could be the employees of a company, the residents of a town or the citizens of a country.

The most prominent form of socialism in many people’s minds is communism, whereby there is common ownership of property and the means of production whilst all members of society contribute and are provided for based on their abilities and needs. Communism always seems to be the most divisive of concepts, feared and hated by some, loved and revered by others. It has also always been seen as the biggest threat to capitalism since its inception and this has undoubtedly led to extensive anti-communist propaganda from the powerful pro-capitalist establishment, particularly in Western industrialised societies.

But in actual fact, as a concept, communism has a lot going for it. It’s hard to argue against the ethics of a system that wants to look after everyone. One can’t help but feel that it’s been unfairly demonised, but also that there are many other socialist ideas and approaches that have been marginalised due to the simplified, dualistic battle between capitalism and communism that is all that we are presented with by the mainstream narrative. There are many other socialist models that are well worth considering alongside communism when exploring elements of systems that could provide us with a prosperous future.

Economic Democracy is a broad philosophy that proposes that the control of businesses should be transferred away from private individuals and into the hands of wider stakeholders whilst also achieving social control of investment through a network of public banks.

Participatory Economics is a decentralised planned economic system based on collective ownership of the means of production and the opportunity for all citizens to directly participate in the decision-making process in areas of society that affect their lives (unlike in modern democracies, where we’ve all been fed the myth that every voice and every vote counts when in reality the system has been fixed from the start).

Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT) is another interesting model created by Indian philosopher Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. The cornerstones of this system are a vibrant ecosystem, with collective rights for all resources; the unification of human society, bringing people together around universal values; and a decentralised, cooperative economy designed for the welfare of all.


Whilst socialism is often portrayed as the opposing ideology to capitalism, many socialist models are essentially the same system but with different ownership and control — one private and the other collective. What this doesn’t necessarily address is the fact that the system itself, whoever controls it, is based on economic “activity” whereby we continuously produce things for consumption by the world’s population. And unless we keep this up and ensure that the whole structure is perpetually growing, the system will start to fail and ultimately fall apart.

Once you step back and realise that this is how the system works, it seems blindingly obvious that this is not sustainable. Nothing can grow forever, and every natural structure in the universe goes through cycles of birth-growth-contraction-death. So why would we not build mechanisms into our economic and political systems that allow for both expansion and regression? This is the question being asked by people that advocate degrowth.

The degrowth movement argues that whatever economic, political and social systems we put in place, they must work in harmony with our environment and the finiteness of the material resources that we have on Earth. One such approach is the Resource Based Economy, described by as:

The redesign of our culture to operate within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s resources and in accordance with the wellbeing of people and protection of the environment.

There is now increasing pressure from many members of our societies to move towards a circular economy, a model of production and consumption that puts sustainability at the heart of the system through maxims like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that aim to minimise the use of natural materials and resources.

One model that is gaining real traction with organisations and governing bodies across the world is Doughnut Economics, a framework for sustainable development conceived by Kate Raworth that outlines a series of social and planetary boundaries that we need to observe in order for both humanity and our environment to thrive. This model is not just a theoretical concept but is actively being put into practice through engaging with governments and local authorities worldwide to encourage real life implementation on the ground.


Most of the ideas explored so far are concepts that seek to take the current capitalist model as a starting point and transform it into a fairer, more humane and sustainable system. An orderly transition to a new form of society would obviously be the smoothest path into the future and would be seen by many as a preferable course to take. However, there are also many people that believe that the hierarchical, patriarchal edifices that have controlled most of the world’s population for thousands of years are not suitable for or capable of forming the basis of the new world that now needs to be birthed. This is where anarchism comes in.

Anarchism, like communism, is a concept with a negative reputation in the mainstream narrative, conjuring up apocalyptic images of chaos, disorder and violence. However, anarchism is actually a broad philosophy, once again with many strands and variations, that seeks to abolish authoritarianism and hierarchical institutions in favour of self-ownership and self-governance. There is certainly a strong argument to say that the best way to care for the myriad communities across the world, which are all unique and so different from one another, is through a decentralised approach where each community has the power and authority to decide for themselves the best ways of meeting their own needs. There are many areas, especially in technology and communications, that are already embracing a decentralised approach, often in spite of the increased efforts of the global establishment to push towards greater centralisation and control. These include blockchain-based decentralised platforms; cryptocurrency; the collaborative commons; 3D printing and decentralised manufacturing; distributed renewable energy and localised energy autonomy; and many other grass roots decentralised organisations that are now appearing due to the fact that the current system is no longer trusted by many and is failing to meet people’s needs. An example of the latter would be the People’s Health Alliance, “an organic, people-led, integrated health initiative that aims to educate, support and empower people to take responsibility for their own health,” which originated in the UK in 2022 and is now expanding worldwide.

Indigenous models

Opponents of anarchism would argue that without some form of centralised control, a system is always going to be liable to become fractured, lose cohesiveness and fall apart. However, what holds us together as a society is much more than just the rules and regulations of a controlling structure. The most important bond in any society is a shared philosophy, and Indigenous Peoples all over the planet have maintained sustainable societies for thousands of years through adhering to common principles and values without having to resort to coercion and control. These societies have successfully thrived for millennia without descending into the existential crises that capitalism has produced in a few hundred years. So there is much to learn from Indigenous wisdom and we would do well to recognise this, with humility, and pay close attention to the way these people live their lives.

One particularly pertinent philosophy that could be adopted by everyone is the African concept of Ubuntu, which broadly translates as “I am because we are.” This is a collectivist worldview that states that the common bonds within a group are more important than any individual arguments and divisions within it. Each individual sees themself in the context of their environment with a moral responsibility to live in right relationship with others and with the world around them. This does not mean losing your individual sense of self — in fact each person’s unique gifts and abilities should be celebrated for their contribution to the whole, whatever that contribution is — but this sense of self is shaped by your relationships with others.

One tangible example of how this philosophy could be used to build a new society is the contributionist model devised by Michael Tellinger of the Ubuntu Liberation Movement. In this system, everyone contributes their skills and talents for the benefit of their community and the entire community benefits from the collaborative efforts of everyone. There is no money, no barter and no trade as these are seen as tools of control and oppression and ancient civilisations prospered without needing to use these methods. The concept is described elegantly and persuasively in this video:

So, which way do we go?

Ultimately, the question is this: how can we best meet the needs of all the inhabitants of our world — human and non-human, known and unkown?

What has become abundantly clear to me as I’ve researched the multitude of possible social frameworks that have been conceived by all sorts of people, is that how a system works in practice will be very different to how it is projected to do so in theory. There are lots of systems that look very convincing on paper, including capitalism, and there are also many extremely persuasive people that can put forward compelling arguments to support any of the potential avenues that we could take.

But we’re talking about highly complex systems that we can’t possibly model to accurately predict what’s going to happen, even with the most advanced artificial intelligence. There’s a depth of intelligence and complexity to the design of the universe that we’re still a million miles away from comprehending. So I’d say that the best way to proceed would be to recognise that we don’t know it all and start to build a new world organically from the bottom up. We need to be trying out different systems at all sorts of levels of society and seeing what works and what doesn’t in different situations. We need an approach that is creative, exploratory, flexible and adaptive.

The exciting thing is that this is already happening but it’s very much under the radar so far. I’d love to see us lift the lid off and liberate everyone’s creativity. Just imagine what an exhilarating world that would be! Yes, it could be scary at first for those that are still steeped in the old paradigm of control. But I think that once everyone let go of that, they would realise that they were not truly living before and the new way would give everybody a newfound sense of fulfilment and purpose. For me, the best alternative to capitalism would be a system that empowers everybody to become co-curators of an exciting new world!



Faron Sage

Socially-conscious writer & musician exploring pressing issues at the heart of 21st century life. Check out - music for a better world!