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Vulture Capitalism: Grace Blakeley and a Night of Re-Education

Photo by Anainah Dalal

Capitalism is perhaps the most discussed phenomena in the world, whether it be by proponents of it or those that oppose it. In discussions of capitalism, we see raised social issues, political issues, and of course economic issues – Grace Blakeley’s new book Vulture Capitalism explores exactly these three major concerns. Through the book — as with her conversation promoting it at the Southbank Centre on the 24th of March — she aims to re-educate and re-mobilise individuals and groups to stand against the harmful effects of late-stage capitalism.  

In dialogue with prolific climate activist Mikaela Loach, Blakeley presented an hour-long masterclass on capitalism in general — not just “bad” capitalism — and how harmful it is in various ways, often providing examples from within her book and from other research as well, citing famous writers in related fields extensively and impressively. By beginning her conversation with claiming that a lot of what capitalism reinforces is completely unfounded, Blakeley offers up the examples of failing democratic institutions and states that operate under capitalism, how state power is obtained and maintained via capitalistic practices, and how the entire concept of a “free market” is illusionary in its vision of creating and promoting a more equal modernity. All three examples were thoroughly explained, and in her usage of any official or convoluted terminology, she would provide explanations of each term, including Marxism itself – which she first and foremost claimed to use as her own framework to look at capitalism through. 

She carries this tradition of simplifying and explaining large, complicated terms in Vulture Capitalism as well, beginning with the very definition of capitalism itself and giving small biographies of the economists, politicians and other intellectuals she explains and uses the ideologies of. As someone who reads a lot of theory for university lectures, I found myself wanting such mini-biographies of the academics I would study, just to — as Blakeley herself puts it — understand and decode where the ideology we study is coming from and the backgrounds of the people holding those ideas. This is not to say that she believes the personal upbringing of an individual has a large influence on their later politics and ideologies — she gives her own example of having studied in Oxford but growing up with large socialist and leftist influences, ultimately embracing Marxism — and notes that it is important to allow people the space to grow and embark on their own political journeys. After all, we don’t “leap out of the womb with perfect political views” as Loach aptly put it! 

Such accessibility to both her book and her conversation allows Blakeley to engage with a large group of people who come from varying degrees of political, social and economic involvement. People in the audience seemed to feel at ease with her light-hearted nature and easy, explanatory, oratory style, and as Blakeley said so herself, she wrote the book to encourage people to “make trouble” – something visible in the energy of the audience throughout the talk. She makes a convincing argument for everyone to build counter-power to current authorities from the ground up by organising and taking action in groups like unions, smaller action-targeted community groups and most importantly having conversations with people who may not already have the same views. In answer to an audience-asked question, Blakeley emphasised the need for a broader education that exists not only at official school and university levels, but also in grassroots organisations. Inspired by anthropologist and anarchist activist David Graeber, Blakeley continuously emphasised that people aren’t baseline terrible; we unfortunately live in a system that rewards terribleness, and a malleable human nature such as ours would shape itself around whatever system there is. In another question asking about the role capitalism plays in Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people and the Western world’s complicity in it, Blakeley aptly outlines control of state power that benefits capitalism as a large reason, and that profiteering from such forms of violent colonialism has always and continues to benefit the major global capitalist powers at hand. 

In outlining the causes and potential cures for our current capitalist society using contemporary and current issues, Blakeley offers an academically driven, hopeful view towards a future that is more equitable and inclusive. By merging humour and information throughout the talk and book, she brilliantly showcases how political and economic education need not be boring and dull, but exciting and troublemaking. No wonder Mr. Jeremy Corbyn was in the audience and asked a wonderful question, answered wonderfully by Blakeley! 

Ending the day on such an educational note certainly invigorated my interests in socio-political-economical academia that is accessible to everyone, and Blakeley and Loach both successfully managed to convince large portions of the audience — including myself — to join unions, groups and parties of causes that matter to us, and of course pick up a copy of Vulture Capitalism!

Vulture Capitalism by Grace Blakeley is now available across the U.K.


Edited by Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor