Noah denkt™  -
    Project for Philosophical Evaluations of the Economy
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Capitalistic existentialism is a philosophical theory which posits that the self-destructive forces that are inherent in
capitalism and democracy (i.e. consumerism, opportunism, careerism) can over time only be harnessed in a free
and reasonable manner if freedom manages to produce a steady flow of individuals who have understood the
essence of liberty to such an extent that they are prepared to risk their life for it in an independent and well
argued way.

In other words, capitalistic existentialism believes that the essence of  freedom consists in a human being’s ability
to overcome his or her own existential fears when trying to peacefully demonstrate the supremacy of reason.

The term “capitalistic existentialism” was first coined in 2007 by Wil Leonards. It responds to the sense of
exasperation, disillusion and hopelessness that post-modern individuals feel in a turbo-dynamic, interdependent
and global market society and tries to defend the latter in the face of that.


1.        Major Concepts:
Best possible reduction of bloodshed through superior Democratic change management
Constructive and reasonable exploitation of a philosopher’s near self-destructive tendencies
Leadership by example rather than by law making
Reasonable fundamentalism and martyr-like rationality
The irresistible charm of consistent rationality
The ripple effect of an exemplary leadership in mass-media societies

2.        Historical Background
3.        Criticism
4.        Reference List

Best possible reduction of bloodshed through superior Democratic change management

Despite being cognizant of the distortions freedom can create capitalistic existentialism is unequivocal in its pro-
democratic and free-market stance. It does so because it firmly believes that there is no other political system that
can better minimize the brutal and devastating impact that inevitable social and historic change wields on to
individuals and communities.  For one of the great characteristics that capitalism and democracy have according
to its existentialist proponents is the pro-active way in which both systems embrace the dynamic of change and
thereby slice it up into a multitude of manageable daily pieces that are for all to digest. Bureaucratic and
authoritarian systems however try to stem the tide of change that so fundamentally marks the course of individual
and social life. And so they will inevitably build up a massive reservoir of destructive energy that will eventually
wreak a more horrific havoc than the latter had been able to do if it had been allowed to run freely all along.

While arguing though that free markets and democracies provide the best mechanism to reduce the potentially
bloody consequences that the accumulated desire for change creates capitalistic existentialists leave no doubt
however that it still takes great leadership on the part of freedom’s foremost representatives to use this
mechanism effectively so that it can adequately manage the conflicting and antagonistic energies that social and
historic aspirations produce.    

Constructive and reasonable exploitation of the near self-destructive tendencies that a true analytical
mind cannot help but have

In this context capitalistic existentialism argues that is one of the major misconceptions and denials that
democratic and capitalistic pundits usually harbour to believe that the self-correcting forces of freedom are so
pervasive that no human being has to go out of his recognized and established ways to remedy the distortions
that a free and open society naturally creates. Contrary to this capitalistic existentialism believes that at times a
constructive exploitation of one’s own self-destructive tendencies is necessary to prepare the ground for those
self-healing forces of freedom to effectively do their job and thereby balance the disparate effects that a highly
charged materialism emanates.

This argument is based on the observation that the vetting and de-constructive powers of an advanced turbo-
competitive media society are so pervasive that logical reasoning and coherent discourse no longer suffice to
achieve uncontested moral credibility and authority therein. Much rather does it require quasi super-human
consistency to break the careerist cynicism and the institutional disbelief that so fundamentally characterizes the
post-modern reality.  

Leadership by example rather than by law making

In fact, capitalistic existentialism concludes that the devastating effects which an aggregated simple-minded
egoism exerts can only be countered by the trend setting capability that exemplary moral personal leadership

Reasonable fundamentalism and martyr-like rationality

In some measure the emergence of capitalistic existentialism can also be interpreted as Western philosophy’s
answer to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and its concept of terrorist suicide martyrdom. In deed, capitalistic
existentialism argues that highest priority of freedom is not to protect the physical integrity of its followers but
much rather the preservation of itself.  It therefore does not deny the self-crucifying nature that freedom places
onto man but instead expects from its followers that they show no reticence when it comes to defending the
excruciating task that reason asks of them.

The irresistible charm of consistent rationality

That a rational martyrdom would in deed have a remedying effect on the self-destructive nature of market forces
has,  according to capitalist existentialists, something to do with the irresistible charm that -  they believe -  a
conclusively explained and coherently enacted show of reason has on its witnesses. For, according to capitalistic
existentialism, all human interaction rests on the expectation of reciprocity. And so it is only natural to them that a
spectacular show of confidence in others would lead these others to want to repay this advance by showing
enhanced generosity and conscientiousness to their audience.

The ripple effect of an exemplary leadership in mass-media societies

In this context capitalistic existentialists have faith in the fact that due to the media’s inherent  need for covering
the next eye-catching sensation a show of exemplary leadership will in deed have an appeal beyond the group of
those who have actually witnessed this exemplary leadership unfold.


Capitalistic existentialism combines three different strands of philosophical thinking. For not only does it view itself
in the tradition of atheist and theist existentialism, but it also echoes substantial part of capitalist theory as wells
as aspects of anti-capitalistic criticism. Its main sources of reference and counterargument are amongst others:

  • Milton Friedman who argues that market economies are inherently stable if left to themselves.
  • Josef Alois Schumpeter who defended the amazing entrepreneurial creativity that capitalism doubtless can
    stimulate but who also foresaw the increased marginalisation that true entrepreneurial pioneers would be
    subjected to by capitalism’s very own temptation to hide inside technocratic corporate structures.
  • Zygmund Bauman and Herbert Marcuse who denounce the ever increasing consumerism, materialism and
    one-dimensional thinking that capitalistic commercialisation create  
  • Platon who introduces the idea of a never ending cycle of political systems by suggesting that democracy
    naturally has to lead to anarchy, which in turn will inevitably plant seeds for dictatorship which, for its part,
    will have to bring forth again democracy
  • Immanuel Kant, who detected that the only sustainable way to avoid individual and social disaster would be
    to not do to others what you do not want them to do to you
  • Jean Paul Sartre, who explains that true freedom is only to be experienced by opting for rebellious and
    resisting, and hence, heroic sacrifice for the moral good.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others who discovered that a true Christian life would have to accept existential
    risk in order to be able to fully subject itself to God’s supreme will.
  • Karl Popper who demonstrated that no philosophical theory can be viewed as reasonable and scientifically
    sound that is not transparent, that does not subject itself to fellow academic criticism, and that is conceived
    in such a way that makes it logically impossible to prove it wrong
  • Neil Postman and others who detailed the media-driven character of modern and post-modern mass


Criticism of capitalistic existentialism takes issue not only with the eclectic and arbitrary way in which the latter
mixes different schools of thought without doing a in-depth justice to any single one of them but also views it as
irresponsible to toy with suicidal tendencies in order to reach a moral higher ground.

In fact, critics of capitalistic existentialism argue that it cannot be life’s first priority to risk itself in order to achieve
a full understanding of the meaning of reason. After all, so the critics say, the first responsibility of your average
family man is to provide for the safety, sanity and financing of his dependants. It therefore cannot be legitimate to
ask him to go beyond his reasonable doubts, since accepting the latter is absolutely indispensable for generating
a stable and steady salary in this conformist corporate world of ours.

Reference List

Wilhelm Peter Leonards, Businessplan:Existenzphilosoph, Gerolstein, 2007 (available only in German)
Karl Raimund Popper , The Open Society and its enemies, Princeton NJ, 1966
Karl Raimund Popper, The logic of scientific discovery, New York, 1959
Friedrich August von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Chicago, 1944,
Friedrich August von Hayek, The constitution of liberty, Chicago, 1960
Immanuel Kant: Critique of Practical Reason, New York, 1956
Jean Amery: On suicide: A discourse on voluntary death, Bloomington, 1999
Milton Friedman: Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago, 1962
Milton Friedman; Rose D. Friedman: Tyranny of the Status Quo, San Diego 1984
Neil Postman: Amusing ourselves to death; public discourse in the age of show business, New York, 1985
Jean-Paul Sartre: No exit and three other plays, New York, 1989
Being and Nothingness, a essay on phenomenological ontology, New York 1956
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, New York, 1955
Dietrich Bonhoeffer ,Letters and Papers from Prison, New York, 1972
Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  The Cost of discipleship, New York, 1959

Max Weber, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, New York, 1958
Max Weber, Selections from his work, edited by SM Miller, New York, 1963
Herbert Marcuse: One-dimensional man; studies in the ideology of advanced industrial societies, Boston, 1964
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Life, Cambridge, MA, 2005,
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Fear, Cambridge, MA, 2006,  
Zygmunt Bauman, Consuming Life, Cambridge, MA, 2007,
Zygmunt Bauman , Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers?, Cambridge, MA,  2008

Plato: The Republic, edited by G R F Ferrari and Tom Griffith, NY 2000
Paul Tillich, The courage to be, New Haven, 1952
Paul Tillich, Dynamics of faith,  New York, 1958
Albert Camus, The stranger, New York,  1989
Albert Camus, The myth of Sisyphus and other essays, New York, 1955
© Landei Selbstverlag, owned by Wilhelm ("Wil") Leonards, Gerolstein, Germany. All rights reserved.

Reminder: Noah denkt™ is a project of Wilhelm ("Wil") Leonards and his Landei Selbstverlag (WL & his LSV). Consequently, all
rights to the texts that have been published under the Noah denkt
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Capitalistic existentialism, self-destructive forces of capitalism, Leadership by example,
pacifying capitalism, difficulty of being reasonable, democratic change management, self-healing
forces of freedom
, taming capitalism, capitalistic reasoning