The nation that considers itself to be the apex of capitalist achievement on planet Earth turns out to have no health care system worthy of the name–a testament to the sucking moral vacuum at America’s imperial, white settler colony core. A lowly virus–a form of being that exists at the very border between “life” and “not-life”–has revealed the world’s superpower as butt-naked and very much afraid.
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“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” - Audre Lorde
So long as capitalism dominates, there is no escaping its unrelenting assault on rational and humane cultural values and practices, most prominently today in the form of the consumerism purveyed in every media by commercial advertising.
Even worse is the pervasive example of many of capitalism’s leading representatives, teaching through their demeanour and authoritarian delusions their commitment to hierarchical and exploitative order.
“Capitalism’s War on the Earth”: The existential challenge of a moribund socio-economic system
The newest book by Giorgos Kallis, one of the most prolific degrowth advocates is entitled Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care. It is a short and accessible read which contains some important and unconventional arguments. In what follows, I will first briefly summarize the core arguments of the book, which promises to provoke important discussions on the matter of limits and subjects. Then I will reflect on the fuzziness of the primarily cultural conceptualization of capitalism, and argue that neither self-limitation nor degrowth qualifies as a mode of production, such that they could constitute an alternative to capitalism.
In fact, the political economist Eleanor Ostrom actually won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 for disproving the long-held belief known as the “tragedy of the commons,” a theory which held that resources held in common by communities would naturally be overused and depleted. Ostrom’s work demonstrated that this assumption is false, and that it is in fact very possible for resources to be managed collectively without privatization.
We begin by way of a conclusion.
The now globally dominant system through which we make our living in nature is capitalism.
Capitalism not only owns global warming, there’s a big red mitigation arrow pointed at the heart of today’s rampant capitalism, which is eerily similar to the loosie goosie version of the Roaring Twenties, but with a high tech twist.
After all, somebody’s got to pony-up for climate change/global warming mitigation. Who better than deep pocket capitalists?
Intuitively, it is a stretch to assert that a social system with a wide range of goals of which the development of the productive forces is only one, will surpass a society consumed by the singularity of that goal. The incentive-egalitarian balance highlights that trade-off. And if we accept that the path to socialism will involve sacrifices and choices all along the way, including in its construction, then winning people to the socialist cause and keeping them there will have to be based on their desire for something different rather than the questionable promise of socialism bringing not only more justice, more democracy, more workplace control, but also more growth.
The system of fossil-fueled neoliberal capitalism is indeed moving toward an end of history, but only in the sense of the end of any historical advance of humanity as a productive, political, and cultural species due to the increasingly barbaric socio-economic and environmental conditions the system creates. There is now no alternative to the end of history as we know it. The sustainable development of human society co-evolving with nature including other species now depends on a definite historical break with capitalism as the dominant mode of production.