De-capitalization

A friend recently mentioned the concept of de-capitalization, which seems to be the idea of moving away from capitalism and the “market” as the only way to measure value. This really resonated with me, as a big part of my own recent journey has been to move away from that that worldview.

When I was deciding whether to leave Google to pursue coaching a couple years ago, I struggled with giving up the status and compensation of my Google job for the uncertainty of self-employment. How could I give up that money, especially as a new father who wanted to be a good provider?

A friend recommended I read the book “The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life” by Lynne Twist. You can read more on the book’s website but what I loved in the book was the identification of “toxic myths” of capitalism:

  1. There’s not enough.
  2. More is better.
  3. That’s just the way it is.

Myth #3 is particularly critical as it prevents us from challenging the mindsets of scarcity (Myth #1) and of greed (Myth #2). Identifying those myths allowed me to realize I could reverse all of them with regard to money:

  1. I have enough.
  2. I don’t need “more”.
  3. It doesn’t have to be this way.

That reframing helped to unblock my inner dilemma, and helped give me the courage to leave Google.

I recently realized that this reframing also involves moving away from the idea that our worth as a human being is determined by increasing our bank account. Capitalism culture collapses the rich multidimensionality of humans into the single dimension of money, and tells us that making that number go up is the only way to “win”. But that’s a finite game, and we can choose not to play it. If we step out of Myth #3, we can pursue whatever aspiration we choose, at least after reaching the income level necessary to meet basic needs.

Riane Eisler’s book The Real Wealth of Nations helped me to see what capitalism does not include in its conception of “value”. I had never considered her point that what we call “work” is highly gendered, where masculine work is considered “real” work that must be paid for, but feminine caring work is seen as a household duty that should be done for free. This has become even more clear to me as a parent, where I find taking care of my children to be exhausting (but do it for free), and find my coaching work to be energizing (and get highly paid for it).

I recently read a couple articles that also highlight the sexism and racism embedded within this inequity:

  • Anne Helen Petersen’s Vox article asking why childcare workers are paid so little. “Like many forms of feminized labor, child care has long been thought of as part of the domestic, private sphere — something that comes “naturally” to women and, as such, something that any woman can do well, instead of a discrete skill. … Work performed by women and performed by women of color is historically undervalued. When a type of labor is not considered a skill or is conceived of as something that people “naturally” want to do for free, it keeps wages down.”
  • There’s No Natural Dignity in Work in the New York Times: “Forcing parents into low-wage, often exploitative, jobs by threatening them and their children with poverty may be counted as a success by some policymakers, but it’s a sign of a society that doesn’t value the most essential forms of labor.”

When my friend mentioned the de-capitalization concept, it provided a single word to tie these thoughts together of moving away from measuring my own worth only by what I’m paid, and away from only valuing certain types of work as being “valuable”. If we can deprogram ourselves from the brainwashing of capitalist culture, we can choose to play a different game; instead of making more money, we can value a broader range of activities and aspirations, and embrace the fully textured multidimensionality of humanity.

Reflecting on my own situation, it made no sense within the reductionist capitalist framework for me to walk away from a prestigious highly paid job at Google for self-employment, because my compensation would go down, and that is the only number that determines capitalist “success”. Once my coach and friends helped me realize that I could choose a different set of “success” criteria (breaking out of myth #3), I realized that spending my time on more fulfilling coaching work, and having more time for myself and for my family, was worth more to me than the Google compensation. Admittedly, I was privileged to have the financial security to support myself and my family while I built my coaching business. But two years later, I am very happy with my decision – I don’t regret the “lost” income at all, as I am feeling more fulfilled through the mastery, autonomy and purpose I get through coaching.

It’s been interesting few years for me as I start to see more of the racist, sexist and capitalist cultural assumptions embedded into my worldview e.g. I believed growing up that taking care of kids was “naturally” the mom’s job, and am trying to show that’s not true as a dad. I am writing this post as part of my commitment to do the work, and do it in public. I realized a couple years ago that I had a choice to play a different game, to “de-capitalize” myself, and have really appreciated the freedom it brought me; somebody asked me a few weeks ago whether I was living the life I wanted to, and I was able to answer yes whole-heartedly. That was an amazing feeling, and I look forward to seeing what I discover next as I continue to shape my life.

I’ll close with a quote from Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money:

Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, it gives you authenticity, power, and clarity. You find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.

With whom will you stand? How will you move the world?

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