John Bellamy Foster Interviewed by Solidair/Solidaire, “The Ecology of Socialism”.
Excellent and clear piece that explains that:
” In capitalism you have an economic crisis whenever there isn’t economic growth or it slows down significantly (more specifically when the growth of profits and accumulation turns negative or stagnates). It is a grow-or-die system. Whenever there is an economic crisis it poses, like I said, “a disaster for working people,” since they are ultimately forced to bear the cost. We are experiencing that right now in a very big way. But it is also true that the ecological footprint of humanity is now too big, and we are crossing all sorts of physical boundaries of the system. This too is a reality, and one that will only worsen with continued exponential growth.
“How do we deal with this double economic-ecological contradiction, which is built into capitalism? I think the answer should be obvious: we need to struggle against the system itself. People need jobs and security, as well as all the basic requirements of life. They also need opportunities for human development. But this cannot be accomplished any more by doing everything possible to expand the total level of production endlessly, with the promise (almost invariably not kept) that significant crumbs will fall to those below. Instead we have to focus on essential needs, on equality, and on human development.”
We are living in an ecological emergency and an economic crisis. This pamphlet brings together three contributions to what will have to become an ambitious but alternative strategy for real change in the way we all live. The three essays printed here start from the recognition that endless economic growth is not possible. Getting Started on the Economy also points to the incoherence of competition in the global economy as a national or regional economic strategy, sets out some alternative principles for building the replacement economy and suggests priorities for activists to help bring them about. Sustainability, Utopian and Scientific offers a constructive critique of what has become mainstream green economic thinking. Concepts for Bioregional Development is an attempt to synthesise a new integrated vocabulary for the new economics of social and ecological justice. It should be read in conjunction with our first pamphlet: A Green Deal for Manchester-Mersey Bioregion.
Buy a printed version of The Replacement Economy
Buy a printed version of A Green Deal for Manchester-Mersey Bioregion
Here is a revised and extended version of a paper posted here last May: Getting Started on the Economy. More work needs doing on it but it
- presents the problem for the regional economy in terms of two flawed assumptions endless growth and global competitiveness;
- suggests some alternative guiding principles;
- suggests some ways in which we can promote them.
Do comment so we can develop the thinking here.
It can be read in conjunction with the Green Deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion paper and Sustainability: Utopian and Scientific.
(file updated 25/09/2010)
Report from the Worldwatch Institute reported by the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/12/climate-change-greed-environment-threat
The average American (sic they mean UnitedStatesian) consumes more than his or her weight in products each day, fuelling a global culture of excess that is emerging as the biggest threat to the planet, according to a report published today. In its annual report, Worldwatch Institute says the cult of consumption and greed could wipe out any gains from government action on climate change or a shift to a clean energy economy.
No surprises here but useful to have this one to cite. As we have argued (and see also John Bellamy Foster) this is the central problem – but it isn’t a matter of greed or even a cult of consumption – it is a matter of a capitalist system that requires endless production-consumption in the intersts of the treadmill of capital accumulation. This is what has to stop – anything else is merely cosmetic because it does’t put out the fire beneath the planet.
The NWRDA has produced the first part of the draft Regional Strtegy RS2010.
They have set out an interesting challenge:
“Therefore we are clear that over the next twenty
years this region must:
- capitalise on the opportunities of moving to a lowcarbon
economy and address climate change
- build on our sources of international competitive
advantage and regional distinctiveness
- release the potential of our people and
- ensure the right housing and infrastructure for
We must tackle all these, however, in a period
when less public expenditure will be available.”
A tricky pancake indeed! Some of us think that the second of these – this idea of international competitiveness is incompatible with the others. Indeed that is one of the key ideas of this bioregional green deal project – strategic localism rather than strategic globalism (see our glossary. We also aren’t at all sure that ‘sustainable growth’ is anything more than a contradiction.
Unfortunately the paper gets worse the more you go into it. It uses the sustainability language, but with no depth of understanding as to what this might mean – it is playing at sustainability – fiddling in effect while the planet burns.
But let’s give it a thorough read and join in the consultation. We know they mean well, we need to help them come up with a workable strategy not a fantasy.
NEF has published a follow-up to the summer 2008 New Green Deal paper: The Cuts Won’t Work
I like this report – it very effectively debunks the current hegemony of the supposed need to make savage cuts in public spending, and it makes the connection again between the crisis caused by the bursting of the credit bubbles and the need to decarbonise energy and the economy.
But like the New Green Deal it remains essentially a Fabian document – telling truth to power as if this will create the needed change. There is no theory of action, no praxis. It is essentially Utopian sustainability.
Secondly, it fails to address the argument (of Tim Jackson and others) that sustainable growth is a chimera because it is no possible to de-link resource throughput from growth. The document is arguing for (a green) Keynesian stimulus to get growth going again. maybe that speaks to those in power, but it leaves a big question – can there actually be a green ‘business as usual’?
The root of this second problem is the accumulative core of capitalism. Capitalism works on the accumulation (growth) of capital) extracted as surplus value together with the energy and other subsidies extracted from the natural world. It is this motor that has faltered in the present conjuncture – because the previous fix – financialisation of the economy had burst. What we see now is a combination of the internal and external contradictions of capitalism.
This is difficult to say and be heard since the whole world system (pretty much) is addicted to capitalist growth as an engine of wellbeing. NEF does a good job in problematising this, but it does not reach deeply enough into the root causes of the problem. Consequently it has neither an adequate diagnosis of the problem that needs to be fixed nor a convincing praxis or theory of action. Not that I’m saying this is an easy thing!
For an essay length exploration of these connected issues see my article:
But thanks anyway NEF for doing what you do. Just because it can be criticised doesn’t mean it should be rejected out of hand – I’m just trying to suggest (very roughly) where you need to amend the model and carry out new lines of work to take it further.
read the full article
To make the move to a sustainable future where people are no longer threatened by an ecological catastrophe will require a number of things – above all a strong and broad movement with effective and intelligent leadership and an accurate understanding of the current problems and how they can be overcome. Sadly only some parts of this constellation of forces is in place today. In particular the green movement is not an effective political and social movement and the left is still in disarray, largely concerned with defensive politics and harking back to a world long gone.
As for ideas and analysis of the situation and what need to be done, some powerful critiques of the current economic orthodoxies have recently appeared that set out an alternative way in which the well being and prosperity of the population can be achieved and maintained. However, these contributions are insufficient since they do not provide a sufficiently profound diagnosis of the causes of the problem. Without such a diagnosis there can be no convincing prescription for a remedy. But the situation is even worse than that. There is also no convincing approach to obtaining the necessary changes.
The situation is not unlike that which Frederick Engels faced when he wrote “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific”
read more (takes you to the pdf file of this article.
Sustainability Utopian and Scientific
New paper on the economy posted
We need a new model of economic development.
There is a striking consensus about the nature of the economic development that is needed in the UK. The main political parties, business, the unions and most economic commentators share two basic assumptions.
- That economic growth must continue, year on year.
- That success depends on being competitive in the global economy.
I am going to dispute those assumptions and then suggest some different ways of thinking about economic development.
read the full paper…
13/04/2009 at 10:14 pm · Filed under News · Edit
Submission to the NW Development Agency’s consultation on the Regional Strategy – RS 2010.
This questions some of its key assumptions – especially the pursuit of economic growth despite making an attempt to bring in the issues of sustainability / climate change / peak hydrocarbons (!).
The RS2010 Issues and Principles paper still sees the region as having to compete nationally and globally for its success – an assumption that needs debunking. Oh, and they also like the airport and the nuclear industry… see http://www.nwregionalstrategy.com/
My comments are posted here as they may help others to make a better contribution to the consultation.