With Capitalist Realism there is a sense of inevitability, that is, of the eventual hegemony of capitalism, coupled with a sense of the impotence of counter-narratives, whether in terms of economics or political theory.
Like Socialist Realism, Capitalist Realism is a totalizing ideology that extends the logic of capitalism and the market economy to all fields of governance, including not just the workplace, but health care and education. The result is an erosion of unionized labour and the public sector - particularly publically owned corporations - via neo-liberal ideas like out-sourcing and downsizing. Its discourse and rhetoric are also totalizing in that it increasingly presents itself as the only viable alternative. Unlike Socialist Realism, it is not totalitarian (as in Stalinism), in that it allows for certain liberal and libertarian notions of freedom and plurality -- particularly in the subjective or inner domain, eg., the ability to 'do yer own thing' or express one's own personal idiosyncrasies (gay rights, e.g.).
Like Socialist Realism -- cf. Lenin's New Man (homo sovieticus) -- Capitalist Realism makes use of hero archetypes. The hero here though is not the corporate CEO (who has been eyed with suspicion since at least the time of Luther ++); rather, it is the maverick and autonomous entrepreneur, lionized in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Indeed, after the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006, and Obama's win later, placards of conservative protesters read, "Who is John Galt?"
In Capitalist Realism mythic archetypes of the heroic are coupled with other mythic constructs like "the American Dream" and American "Manifest Destiny" (W. Bush's "making the world safe for democracy"). The Dream is usually seen or depicted as the shared ethos of equal opportunity, mutual prosperity, and upward mobility. As the originator of the term, James T. Adams put it, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." Some commentators have noted that as the inequality of income increases, the 'dream' increasingly begins to take on the character of a collective fantasy. But the 'dream' is not simply the possibility of upward mobility and increased personal wealth for all, but a dream of personal autonomy and freedom. Ayn Rand herself knew that laissez faire capitalism could not stand as a mere end and good in itself. As a 2007 comment from the Cato institute noted, the only real 'end in itself' in Rand's thought is the individual and his/her liberty. As James T. Adams put it, "It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream... in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are..." -- the second component in the discourse of Capitalist Realism. And so as the first sense of the 'dream' recedes into fantasy-land, with the retaining of the second sense of the phrase, individuals retreat to Galt's Gulch, liberterian survivalist communes, and increasingly subjectivist escapism, like the conspiracy theories that seemingly multiply yearly.
It is for these reasons -- or primarily for the reason that Capitalist Realism has effectively presented itself to the American public as the only 'real' alternative, and thereby ensured that all critical discourse must conform to its premises -- that I am pessimistic about moralarguments about inequality, viz. that inequality is "bad" because it is not "fair."
I'm not saying that such moral arguments are wrong or insubstantial, but that they are ineffectual since they are not sufficiently "immanent" to the hegemonic discourse of neo-liberal Capitalist Realism, which is to say, that they do not conform sufficiently to its basic premises. Two of these, as noted, are the idea of the autonomy of the individual, and the idea that individuals are in some sense “responsible” for their own well-being (an idea that also resonates with the ethos of certain forms of Protestantism, specifically Calvinism). In other words, it becomes the duty of individuals to secure the improvement of their material conditions (through hard work). The corollary here is that if one fails to do so, the only one at blame is one-self (and not “the system”). And so, as if by some perverse twist of logic, the "system" is absolved of blame and responsibility is shifted on to the individual.
++ footnote: "They have all commodities under their control and practice without concealment all the tricks that have been mentioned; they raise and lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the small merchants, as the pike the little fish in the water, just as though they were lord's over god's creatures and free from all laws of love and faith." ~M. Luther, "On Trading and Usury" (1524)
Addendum: At a later wee hour it has just struck me that the last paragraph of the above precisely parallels what Augustine does in his "theodicy." A 'theodicy' is the attempt to absolve God from the question, "If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world?" Augustine's answer is, of course, that it is the fault of Man, that Man is basically sinful (original sin).