edelman trust barometer

The rise of anti-capitalism

With the seemingly ever-rising urgency to tackle the climate crisis and the slow pace at which structural changes are made, patience is running out. Especially younger generations are getting increasingly frustrated, or even fatalistic about the fate of our planet. A British study found that a third of Generation Z says “there’s no point in changing their behaviour to tackle climate change because it won’t make any difference anyway”.

This frustration and ‘doomerist’ attitude also reflects on their views towards the society we live in. Generation Z does not see climate change as an isolated problem. As a matter of fact, a different survey found that 75% of Generation Z believe that the climate emergency is “specifically a capitalist problem” as opposed to a side-effect of industrial production that would occur in any economic system. Capitalism was also seen as the reason for the housing crisis (78%), and racism (71%), and was said to fuel selfishness, greed, and materialism.

Even in America, historically a big champion of free-market capitalism, the tide is starting to turn. In 2019, there was a 20% gap between young people who regarded capitalism as something positive versus negative: 58% vs. 38%. Merely three years later young people are almost evenly split between those who view capitalism positively and those who view it negatively (49% vs. 46%). Among Gen Z respondents, more than half even regarded capitalism negatively (54%).

These changing sentiments are indicative of a generation that is ascribing many of the problems they face today to the overarching economic system they live in. As the climate crisis will become a more prominent topic in the future, it is likely that these frustrations will remain for the coming year (and probably thereafter). We could possibly be nearing the peak of capitalism once the youngsters of today will start making their mark on the world.