As with every major upheaval in societal focus and organisation, the move towards commercialism as the dominant characteristic of society has both its proponents and detractors. Particularly for those whose power and influence has been displaced by this change, there is a nostalgic desire to return to the past and embrace it as some kind of “golden age” of society. But major changes in society tend to move forward, not backward, and the changes that were ushered in with this commercialism were perhaps necessary to address imbalances that had dominated societal organisation under the former systems. Certainly, the dominance of a landed aristocracy and the subservience and slavery of large portions of humanity was something that had to disappear. There are also those who feel that the rise of commercialism is a transitional stage in and of itself towards something that will bring about the tenets expressed so clearly during the French revolution, of “liberty, equality and fraternity”. Certainly commercialism has seen the replacement of one elite ruling group by another. The rise of socialism was expected to bring about the supremacy of labour over capital, yet it remains, one way or the other, rooted in the commercialist spirit. If a change is to come, it must represent a further step forward along the development path, the full scope and direction of which is not yet fully obvious.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “Certain prophetic voices announce indeed the speedy passing of the age of commercialism. But it is not easy to see how this is to come about; certainly, it will not be by a reversion to the predominantly political spirit of the past or the temper and forms of the old aristocratic social type. The sigh of the extreme conservative mind for the golden age of the past, which was not so golden as it appears to an imaginative eye in the distance, is a vain breath blown to the winds by the rush of the car of the Time-Spirit in the extreme velocity of its progress. The end of commercialism can only come about either by some unexpected development of commercialism itself or through a reawakening of spirituality in the race and its coming to its own by the subordination of the political and economic motives of life to the spiritual motive.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 217-218