Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

Buddhism Under Capitalism

Publication Date

Fall 11-3-2022


Richard K. Payne and Fabio Rambelli


Bloomsbury Press


London, UK



First Page


Last Page



Comparative Humanities


Not even three decades removed from Francis Fukuyama’s post-Cold War proclamation of the “End of History,” the Western world is now undergoing a crisis of conscience – at the very least – with respect to both capitalism as an economic system and neoliberalism as its less-recognized but ever-present ideological foundation. The financial crisis of 2008, the subsequent Great Recession, the Occupy movement(s) of 2011, the 2016 challenge of self-styled Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, and growing anxiety about the fate of the planet, particularly among the young, have opened up new avenues of critique, and brought “socialism” back to the table as a topic of conversation. But socialism is not the only voice in the new wave of anti-capitalist critique: Buddhism, as well, might play a role. As I have detailed elsewhere, a Buddhist critique of industrial capitalism can be traced back at least to the late-19th century, when Western economic forms began to make itself felt in South, Southeast and East Asian countries in which Buddhism retained some measure of influence. Now, however, the circumstances are very different; for one, the classical (Marxist) critique of capitalism, for all its strengths, does not necessarily apply to either the post-industrial economic form nor — perhaps more crucially — the ideological and discursive forms of contemporary neoliberalism, which, despite recent countercurrents, continue to hold remarkable sway in Western capitalist societies. In this paper, drawing on the work of contemporary anticapitalist critics as well as those of earlier progressive Buddhists, I will outline a possible framework for Buddhist anticapitalism that negotiates these concerns.