On the dialectic of climate change and capitalism

In the name of avoiding all the sentimental trash over children and animals and future generations and so on, I tend towards an eco-socialist position, but with the following qualifications:

a) Capitalism and the natural environment are inextricably linked with one another. This means that the simplistic point that the economy relies on nature needs to be dumped (in the recycling bin). Instead, in the same way that capitalism relies on the transformation of nature for its own continuance, so also does nature as we now know it rely on the perpetual transformation of capitalism.

b) This means that the end of capitalism will have significant environmental effects, especially in terms of agriculture but also for those zones ‘protected’ from intervention. Remove one partner from a symbiotic relationship and the other suffers.

c) However, the ‘end’ of nature will also have a deep impact on capitalism. This is where we face a second tension within the workings of capitalism (the first being the conflict between the forces and relations of production): unlimited capital on a limited planet:

i. capitalism requires ‘growth’ by definition. Note the effects of the recent economic ‘crisis’, in which most world economies went backwards – unemployment, loss of revenue, social stress etc. Only Australia avoided a recession. How? By selling environmentally destructive products to the Asian region, products that are deeply ‘natural’ such as coal (a further contradiction).

ii. However, it is impossible to grow indefinitely when you have ultimately limited resources.

iii. So at some point this contradiction, which has sustained capitalism for a few centuries now, must lead to its undoing.

d) All of which means that ‘green’ capitalism (apart from the green of money) is an oxymoron.


2 thoughts on “On the dialectic of climate change and capitalism

  1. random and loose responses:
    on a): yes absolutely! if we mean technological/human impact on nature, we call nature the extension on a continuum of our presence. It works the other way around: we call human the extension of nature in us… plus a twist, perhaps.
    Capitalism, as the form/expression of our habitat is resilient to crisis and finds old and new forms and object of exploitation to re-launch itself, but true, if it cannot grow it will go in a dangerous zone of defensive resentment, looking for obscure allies in search of rhetorical ‘scapegoatings’ … which means usually some form of fascistic waging of war, against some target identified as suitable object of hatred and endowed with useful goods to be appropriated… we are sadly familiar with all that. again only some internationalist, emancipatory movement will be able, maybe to give sense to that conjuncture scenario, and will have to get involved directly, to oppose and divert it.

    on d): I agree?, I am thinking about the Transitional Movement backed up by Mlliband, with its policy of ‘reduction of carbon’ and ‘resilience’ in luddite style, permacultue etc., true they advocate in principle a no-growth economy, but I am not sure that it translates into a post-capitalist procedure, even less into an anti-capitalist. I think eco-policies are perfectly suitable to be manipulated into the next ideological card played by capitalism-cum-democracy: governments have almost exhausted the ‘war-on-terror’ one (unless a suitable attack would refresh it), and ‘Consumerism’ seems to be wobbling and faltering… of course it can keep the three up in the air, juggled well, to keep the minds from waking up to simply claim back what has been ferociously robbed since the early primitive appropriations until the whole bounty of the last twenty years.
    … there are other oxymoron:
    ‘capitalism with a human face’,
    and ‘de-regulated capitalism’ with ‘no-state interference’ in the ‘free flow’ of the ‘free market’…

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