As an imperialist political economy, capitalism expands to fill available space. Whatever it touches turns into a commodity in the network of owners and owned. The market model and theory of property eclipse older ideas and draw what was public into private hands. After generations of imperialism, imaging alternatives to commodity markets and private ownership becomes difficult if not impossible. When workers object to exploitation by the owner class, the owners point to the prevalence of the economic theory as proof of its success. Only capitalism can deliver the liberty, plenty, and prosperity that contemporary society has to offer, even if it only delivers those things to the owners. Alternative theories have been tried and collapsed into capitalism, serving as further proof of the theory.

Capitalism’s colonization works similarly to other totalizing theories. Concepts posited by the theory are read backward in time, forcing old arrangements into the mold of the new theory. Nuances are reduced to the model’s terms to erase traces of the changes wrought. In particular measuring value by quantities of currency allows the capitalist to subsume any exchange of goods or services into their market model. Once capitalism is entrenched, students learn history through the capitalist lens and as such often cannot imagine any alternate arrangements.

Progress through history is a key assumption of modernism and one that implicitly supports the captialist supremacy narrative. The conceit of many Modernist scholars is that human civilizations develops through a similar set of stages from nomadic hunter-gatherers to citizens of nation-states with complex economic, social, and technical institutions. This perspective, sometimes called “whig history”, reflects imperialist attitudes that drive the Modern era. Northwestern European society was hailed as the triumph of civilization, so “less advanced” societies would be served by accepting the values, technology, religion, and customs of Northwestern Europe, especially liberalism and its capitalist political economy. Whig history lends justification to “the white man’s burden” to bring the light of civilization to the world. As a component of political liberalism, capitalism then serves as the beacon toward which all developing economies should move.

The narrative of historical progress breaks down significantly under critical scrutiny. Scholars who have rejected the imperialist bias find that technology, customs, and politics change over time but not in a uniform direction. Post-modernists call into question the very framing of “direction” since it still assumes that some political orders or customs can be placed on an objective value hierarchy. Rejecting whig history, one can instead see capitalism as a movement in human civilization, one with both a beginning and an end. Capitalism is not the most robust economic theory possible, nor even the most robust theory to have been implemented. Where we do judge politics and customs, we should do so according to overarching moral principles not by comparison to any given “most advanced” society.