Economics vs. Ecology

Ecology: from Greek oikos ‘house’ + -logy.

Economics: from Greek oikos ‘house’ in the form oikonomika referring to household management.

It is a monumental irony that these terms, with their entourage of cognitive and practical meanings in mortal combat for our present and future world, have grown from the same root. The most basic conflict of our time, that of economic growth vs. ecological integrity, is driven by a common desire and demand to maintain the safety and comfort of our home.1

In the most simple and naïve consideration, there should be no conflict at all. We all want the same things: sufficiency of sustenance, safety and health, human companionship and a sense of connection with and comprehension of the activities of the world beyond our direct powers of intervention. And yet, how to meet these goals and maintain the comfort of our home is anything but clear in our hugely complex world; a world where it is possible to live and breathe the air, eat food and all the rest while never giving a moments thought to the primary sources of any of it; a world where all that one has seems to come from economic activity and not from the ecological processes which underlie and sustain all living existence.

Learning to navigate the Byzantine mazes of the economic world has become an all-consuming occupation. For those who give it their fullest attention, there is little room left in either the hours of the day or the neurons of the brain to consider other, and I would say, deeper meanings. Those who do not give the economic world full attention can only be marginally effective in it; will not be in control of its machinations and be generally at the mercy of it. This is exactly the same thing that can be said of someone going into true wild-lands: fail to give full attention and be only marginally capable of survival.2

But there are major differences between the primacy of the ecological order compared to the economic order. Ecologies are foundational. It is the interdependent relationships of hundreds, thousands, even millions of species along with the integration of their activities within physical/chemical cycles that allow complex living things to exist on the earth. Atmospheric oxygen, fresh water, fertile soils, consistencies of climate and weather and many other vital consistencies are the products of functioning ecosystems. The failure to understand this is one of the consequences of being drawn deeply into the economic designs that seem to more directly impact the safety and comfort of our home.

Economies have changed dramatically and rapidly in human history. There is no standard economics associated with the human species the way there is a pattern of family group/community, characteristic of the vast majority of human societies both in the whole of human history and present today. Indeed, the primate pattern of social organization almost certainly has millions of years of history in hominids.

The designs of how humans have arranged the distribution and exchange of goods and services, and the devices to facilitate such exchanges, are in no way fixed in our biology or our culture. The predominate present structures are as accidental as the accepted cut of a business suit – and yet we cling to them both with the same tenacity, prejudice and rigidity. We can conceive of no other way than to live in the flow of present economic process and so, as a society, we trivialize the ecological processes that are the very basis of a living planet.

If the designs for methods of exchange are changed, patterns of advantage will necessarily be shifted. This fact creates powerful forces that argue for maintaining the status quo: the most advantaged usually have the greatest access to the devices of coercion and so can often convince even the non-advantaged of the ‘primacy’ and necessity of the existing methods. We are seeing this today in spades.

While initially mind boggling, it is still ultimately understandable. Our daily classical and instrumental conditioning around money-based exchanges is relentless. That the tokens of exchange should become as real, even more real, than the food we eat, than the warmth of a home on a cold morning, is easily comprehended when we realize that we have been trained to this “reality” from the first purchase of a candy, from the first ‘saving up’ to get a lusted-for toy, to the social and emotional response of significant others to an increase in salary.

A properly trained pigeon or rat will die still pushing a food delivery bar that has ceased to deliver; it is a common device in film (and reality) to have a character gathering up piles of money as the fires (lava, tsunami, meteor, etc.) approach. What is not often seen clearly is that many of us try to gather up piles of money while letting the fires of personal relationship, physical, societal and ecological destruction rage. It has come to be that humans are so vast a source of impact that almost 100% of the direct influences on humans come from human generated situations and materials; and human economics is a major part of human generated impact.

Economics is what we believe it is. Change the belief and economics changes. ‘The law of the jungle’ was never about a real jungle, but is the consequence of the human adaptation generating exponential increases in energy availability, exponential increases in both the amounts and variety of materials from which we make exponentially more things. What we call ‘the jungle’ is really a human response to vast excess, the violence created by the attempts to control it. Real jungles are quite orderly places, albeit dangerous to the uninformed.

It has been the belief that such increases represent an absolute positive; it has come to be the instrumental belief that such “growth” is more important than life. There is no rational argument against such a view since such a belief, in practice, is a monstrous madness and has become murder on a scale without precedent in earth’s bloody history.

There is no equality to the contest of economics against ecology. One is insanity and the other is the earth’s native biology. I hope enough of us realize it before we so damage ecosystems that extinction events begin to cascade. But while the ecology will absolutely trump economics in the long run, as a system for organizing human action in today’s moment it is powerful.

The struggle to support present economic systems, maintaining ‘economic growth,’ is driven by the same impulse that motivates the eco-activists; the difference is in what is seem as home. Economics allows and creates a parochial view. The economics’ notion of home is a brick and mortar construction with an assignable value and tradable status, fungible to a degree and with specific uses in the economic environment. Being conditioned to the narrow view of value and having Pavlovian responses to the sight and sound of money, most people more easily adapt to, at least, a version of economic thought. The ecological view of home is the life sustaining conditions of the planetary surface. Economic activity can damage the ecology; ecological preservation can inhibit economic activity.

In purporting to be the sober arbiter of messy human habits, economics leaves out the actual origin of both the habits and the substrate upon which our very existence depends. It is now time to begin to know better, time to take what we have learned and use it. We are one species among millions. We have great and terrible powers that must be brought under some effective control or human actions will so compromise biophysical systems that maintaining vital environmental stabilities will be in doubt. Understanding ecological realities should inhibit economics; it always has done – until now when we are told that economic realities are more important than life itself.

This is a struggle at its beginning, and yet it is nearly over. It is time for revolution, but of a new sort, one that we do not even realize, that will burst upon us of a sudden. It cannot come soon enough.

  1. This is, of course, a fool’s contest – really no contest at all. The ecology of the earth stabilized following the total freezing of the earth’s surface 700 or 800 million years ago, stabilized following the great Permian extinction and will stabilize after the human industrial extinction to which we presently contribute. That our species, with the hugely powerful uninhibited adaptation of Consciousness Order, can bring so much of the living world to an end is terribly distressing to those who, using the very same consciousness, can see it. But it will be evolutionary judgment functioning as it always has for 4 billion years. []
  2. Saying that one is aware of ecological issues because one goes camping, hunting or boating is like saying that I know about economic issues because I go and buy something at the mall. []

James Keye is the nom de plume of a biologist and psychologist who after discovering a mismatch between academe and himself went into private business for many years. His whole post-pubescent life has been focused on understanding at both the intellectual and personal levels what it is to be of the human species; he claims some success. Email him at: jkeye1632@gmail.com. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

49 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. russell olausen said on December 15th, 2009 at 9:17am #

    Just spit it out, New World Order. Next question, who gets tossed out of the life raft? Titled people, step into the boat, with all the resources you control, of course you are in.All others the Kool-aid stand is through that door.

  2. bozh said on December 15th, 2009 at 1:23pm #

    Life, biota, and nature can be looked as complex events. However, simplicities of it all also must be observed and enjoyed.
    What we evaluate as knowledge cannot be complex. So, perhaps, calling events complex makes sense only if we know that we cannot ever know all we need to know ab some events. This is just another simplicity!
    However, sufficient rigor thereof shld or must per necessary truth sufffice.
    Trouble arises when what we know [and is simple] is being complexified solely in order to mislead and deceive or [ab]use
    Surely we all know what exploitations is. It is as simple as loooking at an apple tree.
    But we slhd all know that our abusers wld try to complexify exploitations and their warfare.
    They usualy will tell u: It’s not that simple or it is too complex to understand, etc.
    Yet it is so simple and pacifying to see that what we collectively know is knowledge and what we don’t know or may not ever know does not belong to knowledge.
    And the masters of obfuscation of this simplicity are……? U determine!
    So to end: there are simplicities and complexities and yes to simplicities and no to complexities.
    Let the little simple-minded children remain simple-minded and they’ll grow to be better humans.
    Our ‘educators’ instead make monsters out of them! Yes, imo! tnx

  3. Deadbeat said on December 15th, 2009 at 4:04pm #

    Clearly from Mr. Keye’s writings he doesn’t know much about economics. Why doesn’t he just refer to Capital by Karl Marx and save us all the platitudes.

  4. Don Hawkins said on December 15th, 2009 at 4:45pm #

    We are one species among millions. We have great and terrible powers that must be brought under some effective control or human actions will so compromise biophysical systems that maintaining vital environmental stabilities will be in doubt.

    The study found that around a quarter of all carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities, has been absorbed by the oceans. Without this absorption the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be markedly higher and the effects of global warming more severe. Although this process may have bought some time, the report states, it has not been without a cost: rising levels of marine acidity.

    At current rates, the report estimates ocean acidity will increase by 150 percent by 2050, a rate of acidification 100 times greater than anything that has occurred in the last 20 million years. This will leave little chance for adaptation by marine organisms and cause the widespread dying off of the world’s corals. In addition, shelled organisms will not be able to survive the increased acidity, which will likely lead to a wide scale collapse of the marine food chain. COP15 Post

    A rate of acidification 100 times greater than anything that has occurred in the last 20 million years.

  5. Don Hawkins said on December 16th, 2009 at 7:20am #

    Dennis Kucinich, Rep just gave a one minute speech on the floor of the House and said so far much money to Wall Street and War and little else. That’s a start.

  6. Don Hawkins said on December 16th, 2009 at 8:01am #

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/science/earth/07climate.html?_r=1&hp

    Roger A. Pielke Sr., for example, a climate scientist said that so many independent measures existed to show unusual warming taking place that there was no real dispute about it.

    the e-mail messages and documents will in the end prove merely another manufactured controversy.

    Manufactured controversy I guess is a nice way of saying Universal deceit on a grand scale.

  7. James Keye said on December 16th, 2009 at 9:35am #

    Deadbeat, you have expressed opinion; there is no way to tell if it is informed or not. Is there actual substance to which you object?

  8. bozh said on December 16th, 2009 at 10:32am #

    Is there a simplicity a fascist like sargon, shah pahlevi, obama, clinton; a tsar, king, emperor, lord, earl, plemich, amir, agha, and like-minded people haven’t complexified?
    Possibly and even probably some simplicities or issues that every child over 7 wld instantly grasp as true and desirable, went unnoticed by them and we still enjoy them today.
    I am writing this post not having in mind anything written by others on this page.
    What can be more simple than the right to life of a child or an adult in in whitehorse?
    But why not in dongo of congo? Or in gaza? Well, any prez will find or obtain a ready-made complexity of why not!
    Wldn’t every unschooled child even over five yrs of age in a group of ten, upon seeing seven apples, say: let’s share!
    It is possible for a child of that group who came from a ‘patrician’ family and had been told that he’s a special and better person to say: no way jose! I want one for me!
    And that is being told to every ‘patrician’ kid in US public or private schools! And the result is? Mess? tnx

  9. Deadbeat said on December 16th, 2009 at 11:48am #

    James Keye writes …

    Deadbeat, you have expressed opinion; there is no way to tell if it is informed or not. Is there actual substance to which you object?

    The substance of which I object to a rant that dances and avoids the various serious issue of Capitalist production and offers only platitudes in its place.

    If Ecological issues are as serious as proponents professes them to be then the only way that you’ll will able to restore any kind of ecological “balance” is to REPLACE CAPITALISM. Then why are you dancing around that CORE FACT!

    Here is what you wrote …
    But there are major differences between the primacy of the ecological order compared to the economic order.

    Which “economic order” ? Do you mean Capitalism or something else? Native people had and “economic order” that was clearly more in balance with the natural environment than do Capitalist which originated in European societies. Why avoid that FACT!

    Capitalism evolution was clearly based on conquest and requires standing armies and policing in order to maintain its “rule”. Capitalism is a system of repression and exploitation. The environment is merely inputs into the system as are people who you tend to blame COLLECTIVELY rather than articulate the INEQUALITY OF POWER.

    Therefore I didn’t render an “opinion” in my initial remarks. I rendered a conclusion.

  10. James Keye said on December 16th, 2009 at 12:06pm #

    I chose “economic order” with the clear intention of avoiding the trap of capitalism/socialism/communism narrowness. It is the unquestioned devotion to economic growth that most clearly characterizes the present economic order. While capitalism is the most virulent of the various designs, all present economics depend on growth to function. It is the expansion of consumption that puts humanity in conflict with natural ecosystems. You seem to have strong feelings about these things, why don’t you write them in fully developed form. The hostility and ad hominem style of your commenting only weakens what might be otherwise effective arguments.

  11. Kim Petersen said on December 16th, 2009 at 1:37pm #

    James,

    Your articles are quite thoughtful and do not deserve a hostile response. Clearly you are on the side of a world unravaged by the “economic order.”
    However, with all due respect, I submit that “avoiding [what you say is] the trap of capitalism/socialism/communism narrowness” is not a very courageous stand.
    Also, the subsistence economies (and arguably prestige economies) of some Indigenous peoples are not dependent on growth to function.

  12. Max Shields said on December 16th, 2009 at 1:50pm #

    I think James has hit the nail on the proverbial head. An ecological economy is what Indigenous people (at least the ones Kim seems to be referring to) live by.

    It is courageous to speak out that the emperor has no clothes (i.e., neither Corporate Imperial Capitalism nor State run Communism are worthy of re-treading in some kind of quasi Marxist updating). Apparently it has been James who has had to deal with the onslaught of responses that seem baseless (as in fact-base) comments.

    And yet James keeps posting – GOOD FOR HIM!!

  13. bozh said on December 16th, 2009 at 2:10pm #

    James k,
    “economic order“ appears a generalized term; thus cannot be understood; it can be only interpreted. And economic order 1 of bolivia is not economic order 2 of nepal. Ecomic order 3 of US today was not economic order 3 of US in 1803.

    And by an economic order u mean sowing, reaping, fishing, building roads and bridges, reapairing shoes. In short, all that a people do.
    Or do u mean a situation where aghas, amirs own land and have serfs to till it and sharecrop.
    In fact, not that much different than what is happening in US: workers instead of tillers sharecrop and owners reap excess profits; becoming mnaires, bnaires and buying pols.

    Furtermore, are u thinking of the economy as existing apart from governance, pols, WH, laws, constitution, money, military, etc.
    I am not saying that u are thinking elementalisticly; i.e., spliting asunder verbally what cannot be separated empiricly.

    But a lot of msm columists do. And possibly knowingly; thus also knowingly that they wld confuse just ab anybody who is not aware of elementalism.
    And that`s why there is in US no right to be informed, healthcare, free higher education and where much of governance is owned by individuals, who are only answerable to other individuals and never to the people as whole.
    And 98% of amers listening in awe when pundits on tv talk like that and a listener wld think or say, That is too profound for me, i am to dumb, or i haven`t gone to college. And the mission once again acccomplished.
    Yes, u can fool most of the people all of the time! tnx

  14. Shabnam said on December 16th, 2009 at 2:26pm #

    [However, with all due respect, I submit that “avoiding [what you say is] the trap of capitalism/socialism/communism narrowness” is not a very courageous stand.]

    This stand is others , including DB concern. as well. So, stop jumping around.
    Furthermore:
    [It is the expansion of consumption that puts humanity in conflict with natural ecosystems.]

    You cannot stop consumption rather you can control mal distribution of resources for more balanced consumption through a new economic arrangement.

    How do you explain that there are billions of people on the planet earth who are living on less than $2 dollars per day? The human problem today is NOT consumption rather is lack of balanced distribution of wealth which is based on current economic system. The system does not function based on needs, rather on accumulation of interest and concentration of wealth in fewer hands. The cycle of privatizing of world resources into fewer hands through waging war after war must be broken.

  15. Shabnam said on December 16th, 2009 at 2:37pm #

    should read higher interest.

  16. James Keye said on December 16th, 2009 at 2:45pm #

    Refreshing! I am, unfortunately in this moment, unable to respond at length to these provocative responses — I will, especially since they interest me very much. I believe to be absolutely true that the instrumental design of our economies must be dealt with, though calling them capitalism, etc. puts a layer of expectation and interpretation on them that may not be warranted. But I want to get some distance and try to see our exchange and valuing processes with historical, even geologic, perspective.

    I love to read Mike Whitney’s (and others) highly detailed discussions of what is happening and expected to happen, but they do not offer options beyond the designs in place; they, by their very nature must accept much of the present order.

    It is the capacity of humans to imagine from a variety of perspectives that is our greatest power. This power has gotten us into the deepest shit, but it is also our only tool with which to dig out.

  17. James Keye said on December 16th, 2009 at 2:55pm #

    Shabnam, I would argue that it is absolute consumption that puts us in conflict with ecosystems; the ecology doesn’t care about our mal-distribution. It may very well be that addressing mal-distribution may be an essential element in dealing with total aggregate consumption. However other solutions are certainly on the elite table, including reducing total consumption by reducing total people. I would hope that humans can reduce total consumption by processes that minimize total human distress, but this has not been our way.

  18. Kim Petersen said on December 16th, 2009 at 3:01pm #

    “… but they do not offer options beyond the designs in place; they, by their very nature must accept much of the present order. ”

    There is no need to continue under capitalism; there are alternatives (See “Parecon: Toward an Equitable Economy“).

  19. James Keye said on December 16th, 2009 at 3:19pm #

    Kim, absolutely there are alternatives. I am trying to find for myself a basis of understanding that can recognize and act in response to as big an image of our possibilities as I can. I greatly distrust actions that respond against the existing order — they generally end up being mirror images. I don’t know the reference you suggest, but will read it.

  20. Don Hawkins said on December 16th, 2009 at 3:56pm #

    It is a bit of a problem James and we put that time factor into the thinking and Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler. It’s the but not simpler where we could run into trouble. This little economic crash who got help first and are still getting help from the kindness of strangers. Next we see health care and this bit of insanity next the big one at least here in the States the climate bill known as cap and trade that does very little to slow the problem and helps those first few who got the help first and are still getting help. The first one we saw to big to fail probably not the second health care single payer and yes we pay into kind of a general fund not for just a few but the many. The last tax carbon and tax it hard James Hansen has given this some thought and the tax goes back to the many not the few. Can it be done as this little time factor and probably working together, knowledge, focus, imagination, and easy I think not. One thing for sure James Hansen and a few people at a power plant in West Virginia was a start but we need more people a lot more people. The town square for a cup of coffee and some good conversation kind of. I have to admit to see the climate bill in the Senate could be the straw that broke the camels back we will see. Then what?

  21. bozh said on December 16th, 2009 at 4:05pm #

    max,
    In communist or socialist lands it may be a state which plans an economy: we need so much steel, wheat, timber, cattle, ships, coal, electricity, etc., but workers are encouraged to join communist and socialist parties and thus participate in planning of an economy, making laws, or monies spent on healthcare, free higher education, army, etc.

    This is how a socialism can be described. That it had not or may not work at optimal level maybe much due to fascist interference and constant military threat.
    Take cuba, nicaragua, and venezuela as examples of fascist behavior towards socialism. Nicaraguan socialism had been destroyed by US in its incipient stage.
    Yugoslav socialism wasn’t and it developed reasonable well in spite of the fact of maasive public dishonesty and stealing public property.
    In any given land there may be just 5% of honest people. Running a country in a socialist way with 90%+ plus dishonest and thieving people takes decades or centuries.
    Yogoslav socialism disappeared precisely because there were to many fascists there.
    And the reason US is so strongly fascist is because 99.99% of usans are really fascist or independent or think they are independent and that is the only way to be: the fascist way! And, of course, the fact that US is not surrounded by communist or socialist lands helps any fascism a lot.
    from what u write i conclude that u’r for healthcare, free higher education, right to be informed, only for the fittest and most venerable people
    And the fittest people in america are obviously the meanest, greediest, and biggest liars.
    If u can render this simplicity simpler, then, kudos to u. I cannot! tnx

  22. lichen said on December 16th, 2009 at 5:20pm #

    James Keyes is very correct about how many economists, including industrial, 19th century marxists, have no real concept of ecology and how resources are truly limited. Redistributing doesn’t change the fact that we are running out of potable water, arable soil, or the fact that the forests are rapidly shrinking, other species are becoming extinct, and the world is becoming progressively more toxic as the years pass. Climate justice involves rich countries paying a climate debt, and subsidizing the 100% necessary process of leaving the oil, gas, tar sands, coal, and plutonium in the ground. No, indeed, those old ideologies are vacuous and stand for little to nothing; they cannot provide insight on our current circumstances, nor can they educate their followers.

    Capitalism, communism, socialism, or not, it needs to be hard law that pollution and unsustainable practices, chemicalization, and the usage of nuclear, coal, oil, gas is illegal. Likely you won’t be left with an “ism” after that.

  23. Deadbeat said on December 16th, 2009 at 5:34pm #

    lichen writes …

    James Keyes is very correct about how many economists, including industrial, 19th century marxists, have no real concept of ecology and how resources are truly limited

    We wa are talking about is 21st century AVOIDANCE of confronting Capitalism’s power arrangements and production systesm by “ecologists” and others that result in ecological degradation which includes all life forms — especially human life forms.

    And lichen you are wrong about 19th century marxists. Marx understood how Capitalism commodifies EVERYTHING including nature. I recommend reading articles on Marxist Ecology that you can find on Monthly Review.

  24. dan e said on December 16th, 2009 at 5:41pm #

    Terminology again. Please folks, let’s try for a little more precision in the terms we use/misuse?

    What is meant by the term “capitalism”? Seems to depend a lot on who is using it. To me, it’s most fundamental meaning refers to the currently dominant Mode of Production which anti-Marxists probably would want to describe as “contemporary society’s way of organizing economic life”.
    “Mode of Production” is a term loaded with meaning, too much for me to attempt to explicate here; I do encourage everyone to investigate it.

    But whichever definition suits you, aren’t we all talking about the same reality, the one that is in place in the US and everywhere else in the “Western World”, plus most other spots?

    So what is the main defining feature of this “capitalism” aka “free enterprise system” or “organization of economic life’?

    This is it: Production, that is conversion of what the environment provides into consumable items/materials, whatever you call the process, is carried on socially, that is by society as a whole; however Appropriation is a private matter. That which is produced is not accessible to those who produce it, only to certain Persons who are seen under the prevailing property laws as the legal Owners of it.

    Socialism is defined in a multitude of ways by both those who advocate some version of it and those who denounce it. Let me try to pinpoint what I think it would mean in the most favorable circumstances/interpretation?
    It would mean first that what is produced socially should be available to all members of society equally.
    This would seem to be possible only if the administrative functions of the society were controlled by said equal members of society in some sort of effectively democratic manner, and not subject to the dictat of a small stratum of “owners”, of a priesthood, military caste, Brahmin caste or capitalist Ruling Class.
    Are you with me so far? Have I lost you? Please explain, use both sides of paper if necessary:

  25. Max Shields said on December 16th, 2009 at 7:41pm #

    The problem with defining everything in terms of “production” is that it avoids the point James is making.

    Production was once a problem, back before energy was limiting and the world was open with it’s seemingly endless supply of raw natural materials.

    That problem of production and the use of these resources is not only long since past; it has become a pathology of it’s counterpart – consumption.

    The US is not a producing society. It is a consumption based society which has as it’s economics corrupted in Finance sector that makes “money” out of thin air and calls it wealth and produces NOTHING. The global economy is run on smoke and mirrors and debt to the tune of hundreds of trillions of dollars.

    This is an economy that evolved out of a legacy of imperial empire and has morphed from corporate to Wall Street. It is all about class. Race, gays marriage, gender rights are all divisive issues that are tolerated by the “ruling class”. It is only when we talk CLASS that they are truly threatened, because then there can be a solidarity that is volatile to their class life-style of power and domination. And much of the developing and developed world has been sucked into it’s pathological vortex.

    But production and distribution of what is produced or access to what is produced is not the primary problem; access to land and natural resources is the problem. Poverty is created when wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer. It is not the means of production as in the days of 19th Century Marx, but a life balance that is deprived by all in the name of class domination and endless pathological growth. And using a “green” version of Marx is just an attempt to recussitate the ladened industrial notion with a green wash not much better or different that what corporations do to coopt movements.

  26. ajohnstone said on December 16th, 2009 at 11:04pm #

    It is not about using ” “green” version of Marx” but developing a system of production that is sustainable . Socialists seek a steady state , zero-growth world . Capitalism cannot create such a society .

    Dan is correct , terminology is important in this discussion and bandying words around without fully comprehending their meanings won’t be fruitful .

    I will add to his contribution by declaring capitalism is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation [hence the word !]. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time ( in fits and starts). The economic circuit is thus money-commodities-more money-more commodities, even more money . This is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production . It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment. Competition with other capitalists forces them to reinvest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a result there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now—and could have been any time in the last 100 years—consciously used to satisfy people’s wants and needs. Under capitalism this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a worldscale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment .

    Capitalism is the social system under which we live. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative.

    The result is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream. If human society is to be able to organize its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.

    We should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled.
    In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials and once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources. This is something that socialism could do.

    The problem for many of the Greens is that they want to retain the market system in which goods are distributed through sales at a profit and people’s access to goods depends upon their incomes. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the Greens argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other.
    (Also what many Green thinkers advocate in their various version of a “steady-state” market economy, is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It’s the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism .)

    Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society . Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this in fact is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering in the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit. [ call that a green wash if you insist but it is the basis of Marx ]
    A lot of Greens are wrong to see this interference as inherently destructive of nature.For sure , it might do this , but there is no reason why it has to. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. But how humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force, since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True , that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of Nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour.In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of Nature ie. Nature become self-conscious. But to fulfil this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature. A change from capitalism to a community where each contributes to the whole to the best of his or her ability and takes from the common fund of produce what he or she needs.There is in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people’s needs are not met and people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard because possession provides some security.People distrust others because the world is organized in a dog-eat-dog manner. It does not matter how modest one’s real needs may be or how easily they may be met, capitalism’s “consumer culture” leads one to want more than one may materially need since what the individual desires is to enhance his or her status within this hierarchal culture of consumerism and this is dependent upon acquiring more than others have got. But since others desire the same thing, the economic inequality inherent in a system of competitive capitalism must inevitably generate a pervasive sense of relative deprivation. What this amounts to is a kind of institutionalised envy and that will be unsustainable as more peoples are drawn into alienated capitalism . The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning in socialism because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to thegoods and services .

    Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. To repeat once more , competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly.Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising.

    Humans are capable of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so , that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and whatever ) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them in face of international competition.No agreement to limit the activities of the multinationals in their relentless quest for profits is possible. Measures in favour of the environment come up against the interests of enterprises and their shareholders because by increasing costs they decrease profits. No State is going to implement legislation which would penalise the competitiveness of its national enterprises in the face of foreign competition. States only take into account environmental questions if they can find an agreement at international level which will disadvantage none of them. But that’s the problem , isn’t it ? Competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. So it is not “Humans” , but the capitalist economic system itself which is responsible for ecological problems . The capitalist class and their representatives (presently all meeting up in Copenhagen read my comments at http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2009/12/copping-out-at-copenhagen.html and also here http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2009/12/climate-change-or-change-system.html , a shameless plug ), they themselves are subject to the laws of profit and competition.

    Apologies if much of this is a lengthy repetition of an earlier exchange on the Impossiblist article and thread .

  27. Deadbeat said on December 16th, 2009 at 11:57pm #

    The elimination of CLASS was address by Marx and is at the heart of Marxist dialogue. Max what you are doing is exactly what many anti-Marxist do — they cherry pick Marx and then make false claim followed by the rhetoric of “the pot calling the kettle black” to avert debate.

  28. Deadbeat said on December 17th, 2009 at 1:07am #

    James Keye writes …

    Shabnam, I would argue that it is absolute consumption that puts us in conflict with ecosystems; the ecology doesn’t care about our mal-distribution. It may very well be that addressing mal-distribution may be an essential element in dealing with total aggregate consumption. However other solutions are certainly on the elite table, including reducing total consumption by reducing total people. I would hope that humans can reduce total consumption by processes that minimize total human distress, but this has not been our way.

    Mr. Keye’s response is depressingly misanthropic and falls into the dangerously misguided realm of Neo-Malthusian notions. Ecology deprivation is directly related to INEQUALITY. The conquest of the world by Western nation is by definition — unequal. To deny inequality means the preservation of CLASS which contradicts Max’s previous response and once again demonstrates the utter contradiction that is always contained in Max’s perspectives.

    Max cannot on the one hand complain about class then find agreement with Mr. Keye who rejects that inequality had nothing to do with ecological degradation. In fact Richard Wolff in his presentation Capitalism Hits The Fan details how inequality allowed Capitalist to restructure the economy into its current form. This is not a financial crisis has Max alludes. This is yet another major Capitalist crisis due to its power imbalances. In other words the ecology, society and everything is out of balance because of the mal-distribution of wealth and power caused by Capitalism.

    Therefore because Max and Mr. Keye fail to examine the contradiction inherent in their analysis both are unprepared to offer any real solutions. The fallacies inherent in their perspectives are wrapped in platitudes and diversion which in the end will only sustain the status quo all the while both men will profess as being against it.

    However if I had to choose between Max and Mr. Keye rhetoric I would choose Max’s over Mr. Keye. At least Max ACKNOWLEDGES that inequality exists. Mr. Keye totally rejects inequality because in his world the repression of human beings (how Capitalism affects society) is totally DISCONNECTED from ecology.

    By failing to acknowledge the effects of inequality and human repression means that Mr. Keye is incapable to grasp the problem (which is the basis of my criticism) and therefore incapable to construct solutions that will make society more democratic and bring JUSTICE which is the only way that one can inspire people in the kind of movement needed to change society in a way that will come close to restoring the ecology.

    Also on the issue of consumption, Monopoly Capitalism, which is euphemistically called “Corporatism”, has positioned itself to DENY people access to resources. I would advice Mr. Keye (and Max) to read Elizabeth Warren to understand where the real areas of consumption truly lie for the majority of Americans. It lies in HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, HEALTH CARE, CHILD CARE, and REGRESSIVE TAXES. You are scolding people for living in a modern society while their wages has been held FLAT for the past 30 years while the Capitalist absconded all the huge productivity gains as PROFITS — in other words MORE UNEQUAL.

    However Mr. Keye, you say NOTHING about the biggest consumer of harmful and polluting production — the U.S. Military which is needed in order to MAINTAIN Capitalism (and Zionism btw). Therefore Mr. Keye it is totally misanthropic of you to be blaming “population”?

  29. Deadbeat said on December 17th, 2009 at 1:17am #

    Max Shields writes …

    The US is not a producing society. It is a consumption based society which has as it’s economics corrupted in Finance sector that makes “money” out of thin air and calls it wealth and produces NOTHING. The global economy is run on smoke and mirrors and debt to the tune of hundreds of trillions of dollars.

    Max the problem with your response are the contradiction within them. Your perspective of the “global economy” is through the eyes of the West. Where do you think production traveled to while the West was transforming its society into the FIRE sector? It took production to the global South. The U.S. may have reduced its productive capacity but the global South increase theirs. What they are doing especially in Latin American is struggle to TAKE OVER the plants and factory out of the hand of Capitalist via nationalization.

    The Global Economy is bigger than the United States. In the end, economy is about people. Only if people are willing to struggle and DIE for it.

  30. Deadbeat said on December 17th, 2009 at 3:21am #

    Actually I went back and rethought what Max said…


    The US is not a producing society. It is a consumption based society which has as it’s economics corrupted in Finance sector that makes “money” out of thin air and calls it wealth and produces NOTHING. The global economy is run on smoke and mirrors and debt to the tune of hundreds of trillions of dollars.

    Based on Marxist theory Max’s analysis is incorrect. What Max should be saying is that the Financial Sector doesn’t produce anything of USE-VALUE. But to say that the Financial produces “NOTHING” is incorrect. What the Financial Sector produces are PROFITS that are EXTRACTED from the VALUE produced by workers. In fact what provided the financial sector with all of the money that it speculated with was derived from the PROFITS that was transferred to Capitalist starting in the mid-1970’s and the 1981 Kemp-Roth Tax Cuts and shifting burdens onto workers allowed Capitalist to RETAIN more of the profits being generated by keeping wages flat and absconding the overwhelming growth in productivity due to computerization and automaton.

    Below is a much better explanation of Capitalist production…

    The driving force of capitalism is not production for use or need, or even production for the market as such, but the accumulation of capital—the making of profit. In its simplest form, the process of accumulation begins with a mass of capital in the money form M, which is turned into a new and greater quantity of capital, M’, that is, the initial quantity of capital plus an increment, ΔM (“delta M”).

    The source of this increment is the surplus value extracted from the working class in the process of production. Money, as capital, is used to purchase the means of production plus the labour power of workers. This labour power, or capacity to work, is a commodity available in the
    market, along with other commodities. The value of this commodity—the labour power that the worker sells to the capitalist in the wage contract—is determined by the value of the food, clothing, housing and other necessities of life needed to sustain the worker and the workers’ family. But the value of these necessities (the worker’s wage) is not the same as the value added by the worker to the commodities supplied by the capitalist in the course of the production
    process. In other words, the worker’s wage is less than the value he or she contributes in the production process. This difference is the source of surplus value. Labour power is consumed in the production process, but the commodities produced by it have additional, or surplus, value embodied in them. They are then sold on the market to realise M’,
    comprising the initial M plus an increment ΔM—the profit made by the capitalist out of the production process.

    © 2008 World Socialist Web Site

  31. Don Hawkins said on December 17th, 2009 at 4:50am #

    The US is not a producing society. It is a consumption based society which has as it’s economics corrupted in Finance sector that makes “money” out of thin air and calls it wealth and produces NOTHING. The global economy is run on smoke and mirrors and debt to the tune of hundreds of trillions of dollars.

    Max wrote that and is it true of course. Then Bozh writes And the fittest people in america are obviously the meanest, greediest, and biggest liars.

    I think we know the greediest, and biggest liars and the meanest I think not, wimps and I have seen it only a couple of times on TV as clever they are but once in a great while someone with gut’s and knows there stuff only has to ask a few hard questions the truth and these people fold like a house of cards on a windy day. I guess the greediest, and biggest liars this planet has ever seen in the age of Universal deceit having control of the bank’s, media our thoughts, policy, business the means of production is there game and wimps is there name. Very soon we get to see the wimps in the Senate and those messages on TV telling us what to think thought control and second grade level thinking on the floor of the Senate that Wall Street just loves you know nothing get’s done we need to stay the same the market doesn’t like uncertainty. This is not going to be boring and of course the problem itself problems will just go away like magic in a flow of electrons sure it will wimps. Fold like a house of cards on a windy day with the truth the knowledge with what we now know. Oh we don’t know how did that happen?

  32. Max Shields said on December 17th, 2009 at 6:03am #

    Deadbeat, this is why Marx is outdated. What is a derivative? If a product has no value it is waste and therefore it is not something one needs. And economics of needs does not require Wall Street.

    The word “class” was not invented by Marx. To use it, as I have, is not “cherry picking”. I am free to use words that connect with what I want to convey without referring to it as “anti-Marx”. I am not anti-Marx. I don’t think he brings us where we need to be. That’s an honest assessment, not an ideological one (which seems more your bent). Marx wrote and stated a lot. Dogma has not shown us the light.

    You may disagree with Keyes, but he is searching for solutions outside the ideological sandbox some prefer to play in. I think that’s a worthy and necessary search. I like his biological approach. It’s not unique but it needs to be discussed.

    I don’t see where Keyes dismisses class. I think there is class-warfare and has been since the beginning of imperial empires. Divide and rule. We play into it here at DV. The ruling class wants us to gab on about racism…I think their just fine with an endless jabber about Zionism and certainly love the sing along about Jihadism. Meanwhile they rule and you and I lose!!

  33. bozh said on December 17th, 2009 at 8:01am #

    dan e, u’r right
    Each of these people may imbue the words “capitalism”, “economy” or any ideology with different meanings; thus, starting their ideation from disagreements, they cannot ever agree.
    It seems to me that these thinkers shld first enumerate some or all of any ism’s salient traits; i.e., posit some facts so that we can have at least a clue of what they are talking about.

    It wld be even better to talk ab capitalisms and not capitalism since US capitalism is not nepalese capitalism- and may to each one of them capitalism mean anything they want it to mean.

    An ism is like a bottle in which one can pour wahtever one likes an dyet the bottleman refuses to tell u what’s inside. And once a person acquires a meaning of an ism like catholicism, communism, talmudism, fascism s/he thinks that all people must or do derive that same meaning.

    And they argue to their grave ab who’s wrong or who’s right not knowing each being right by own definition-explanation.
    And all wars, exploitation, slavery, disparities in classes start with ideating, meanings of isms and not from facts. tnx

  34. Max Shields said on December 17th, 2009 at 8:12am #

    I would add that the kind of “waste” produced by Wall Street is toxic and used to privatize the natural world; so it is criminal.

  35. ajohnstone said on December 17th, 2009 at 9:58am #

    Max says “Marx is outdated ”
    i find marx aptly describes present day reality .
    Fictitious capital ( or imaginary wealth) – financial assets and loans as distinct from ‘real capital’ – industrial or productive capital – such as factories :-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictitious_capital
    http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/cinc%20fictitious.shtml

    A good article to read is http://radicalnotes.com/content/view/74/39/

  36. bozh said on December 17th, 2009 at 10:17am #

    To change US system [lack of a system is also systemic] one must step out of the parameters set by the system. Working within this system; i.e., inside the box, bolsters that system.
    Bolstering of the system being also systemic. One of the traits of US system is its onepary rule. It is denied by msm and ‘educators; again, because denial being part of the system.

    In short, i can’t find a single factor inside the box that does not belong to that box and bolsters each of the factors of that box.

    However, once one steps out of the box; forming a second political party, the previous system changes. Just this factor alone; i.e., second or even third party automaticly changes the old system.

    This option must be tried before any military or terrosist solution is applied.
    U already have greens, nader, mckinney. So go for it. Break once and for all the ancient system.
    And second or third party doesn’t have to cost u a penny unless u’r willing to donate some money becasue it does cost money to run a party. Good luck!

  37. James Keye said on December 17th, 2009 at 11:37am #

    When the discussion becomes about ‘what is communism’ and ‘what is capitalism’ and is not about ‘what are the mechanisms of exchange and how are the incentives arranged’, then it is hopeless. It is back to going to Aristotle to describe the functioning of the heart. The words have come to contain an insidious deceit. Communism is not a ‘species’ of economic design with fieldguide definitions, but is an adaptive design with some very general principles; it does not belong to Marx, it was not invented by or discovered by Marx, even as forms of it are admirably explicated by him. It is more acceptable and more functional is some social orders (underlying cultural/environment integrations or lack thereof). The exact same thing can be said about capitalism. These forms of ordering distribution and exchange follow adaptive processes.

    As dangerous and basically evil as capitalism is at present, at root it is only a way of giving order to exchange. Its present design forms around various incentives. It works very very well for short-term expansion (bubble building) and is actually deadly for those not riding it in the moment and for all in the long run — in its present manifestation. But to make a blanket condemnation of it, all its forms and processes, is like rejecting the use of the lever because it is used in a siege weapon.

    What seems to me to be coming more and more clear is that the whole process of human increase in population and consumption to levels many orders of magnitude above the carrying capacity for an organism of our life habit must have dramatic consequences for the whole biosphere. Our species, of course, has had no choice but to exploit our adaptations to the fullest possible extent…. It is now time to exploit our adaptations to survive the consequences of our adaptations.

    I would agree that such a view is some considerable distance from the details of our present troubles, but some humans must hold it and must argue for its importance; just as some must fight for the “best” functioning of the details in the moment. But— without some long view, individual action can only be organized by expediency; which is how we got here. It is not necessary, in the sense of physical necessity, that we fail as a species. I am convinced that the consciousness order adaptation can imagine, and ultimately create, a survivable future for the biosphere’s present assemblage (most of it anyway), not that we will, but that we can…if we will. It is my goal to help enter such thinking into the zeitgeist; it is about all this old man can do.

  38. bozh said on December 17th, 2009 at 12:23pm #

    James k, i agree,
    It is that dictatorial-terroristic little word “is” that causes people to search for essense of anything, including ideologies. Or, so it seems to me!
    It is the aristotelian teachings that once u know the essense of a thing u know what that thing IS.
    And once u ‘know’ what smthing IS u can define it. We can skip entirely whether what i am saying is wrong or not. The little word “is” in previous sentence is auxialliary and thus OK
    One can also replace it, as some people suggest, with the word “appears” as in appears wrong or right.
    It seems then better to talk ab what smthing does! tnx

  39. Kim Petersen said on December 17th, 2009 at 1:09pm #

    Copenhagen and capitalism

    LI: Well, I think the situation, in fact, right now, is not good, and we all know that now it’s almost for sure there will not be a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen. And I think the underlying problem is that despite all the talk, rhetoric about effort to contribute to climate stabilization, and all of these governments primarily concerned with economic growth—or, in other words, capitalist accumulation—and so they are afraid of these climate stabilization effort will increase costs for capitalist accumulation, reducing capitalists’ profit, and therefore they are not really making serious effort.

  40. James Keye said on December 17th, 2009 at 2:06pm #

    Kim,

    From the preamble to the most recent essay on my blog: “This is perhaps the most important moment in the history of the human species since Toba erupted 75,000 years ago and nearly removed our species from the earth.” (it is a reprise of any essay posted on DV last year.) The ‘economic’ form of the species is utterly mad — utterly disconnected from reality. The feeling that comes from watching the madness in action in Copenhagen, in the US Senate and hundreds of other places is beyond words.

  41. dan e said on December 17th, 2009 at 2:09pm #

    James Keye, …
    Why did you inject the term “Communism” into the discussion? I didn’t say anything about communism. My first reaction is that you must have chosen the word in order to evoke kneejerk reactions from middleclass “Americans” who grew up absorbing ColdWar brainwashing with the air they breathed. Which to me is a contemptible tactic.

    Let me interrupt myself long enough to thank ‘ajohnstone” for providing so much that I would like to have but due to various limitations was unable to. Thanks also to Deadbeat whose contributions like my own may at times be less than perfectly precise but are invariably pointed at the right targets. An aside to the amazingly indefatigable Bozh: I do appreciate all the effort you make, but I can only rate your workproduct as about half and half. Often your insights are brilliant but just as often you seem plain goofy. In my humble and somewhat mystified opinion. ??
    Oh yes, a word to Brother “Jeffersonian-Maoist-Tennessee-Existentialist-Nietscheist Bolivarian Socalledist”? In the context of the range of opinions encountered on DV, I guess yours fall more on the end mine fall on than on the other, but if you’d refrain from using the amateurish “ALL CAPS” style, I for one would give your thoughts more consideration.
    BTW I was surprised to see John Judge publish a long rap in all caps the other day. I would have thought him beyond that kind of stuff. ??

    OK, I’ll post this much & get back to Jas K in a minute.

  42. James Keye said on December 17th, 2009 at 2:33pm #

    Dan e,

    I am so disappointed in you for being so easily disappointed. Actually, I just said that to say it since I have no idea what you are talking about, and you have left me with the suspicion that you haven’t read this discussion with full attention.

    This one is over. Will see what happens next time.

  43. Deadbeat said on December 17th, 2009 at 2:50pm #

    ajohnstone writes …

    Max says “Marx is outdated ”
    i find marx aptly describes present day reality .
    Fictitious capital ( or imaginary wealth) – financial assets and loans as distinct from ‘real capital’ – industrial or productive capital – such as factories :-

    I wish I was as succinct ajohnstone. It would have saved me a lot of typing. I still have a lot more to learn about Marxism.

  44. dan e said on December 17th, 2009 at 3:13pm #

    James Keye writes: “When the discussion becomes about ‘what is communism’ and ‘what is capitalism’ and is not about ‘what are the mechanisms of exchange and how are the incentives arranged’, then it is hopeless.”

    In this sentence stands revealed the basic flaw in Mr Keye’s (& also our friend Max’s) perception of social reality. Both think economic life begins with Exchange.
    This is a classic bourgeois/petit-bourgeois misapprehension, born of the fact that such people participate in economic life not by laboring to produce, to transform portions of the natural environment into items useful to humans, but by BUYING stuff.

    I’m sorry Kim but this kind of attitude p’s me off. Okay, I’ll try to stick to the standards of middleclass decorum, but I want all to know that what I’m thinking is not too polite.

    Elementary: before humans can exchange stuff, it has to be PRODUCED. Somebody has to pick it off a tree or off the ground, dig it up, run it down & kill it with a rock, or perform some similar act, before it can be exchanged. Therefore:

    Production is more fundamental than Exchange. Production can take place without Exchange, in fact does so every day, but no Exchange can take place without being preceded by Production.

    To me it’s so typical of the mindset of the Privileged strata, to focus on Exchange, of which they have direct experience, and dismiss Production which is to them an alien universe. Whereas if your first participation in “economic life” was hands-on labor helping to produce something, if such was the main way you and people around you participated economically, the main way in your experience in which needs were satisfied, you would not commence a serious contribution to a discussion of economic/ecologic reality by invoking “ordering of the mechanisms of exchange”.
    I myself found the attempt to characterize focus on Production as akin to “going back to Aristotle” insulting in the extreme. But I guess it’s OK to insult people on DV if you make sure to make it sound Eddicated:)

    No, Capitalism is not “at root” a way of “giving order to exchange”. At root it is a way of some people controlling others, of a small minority keeping the vast majority subjected.

    The attempt to compare rejection of Capitalism with rejection of the principle of the lever must be itself rejected. In the context of a society which is mainly structured along socialist lines, it may or may not be possible for relatively small-scale privately owned enterprises to coexist with the overall publicly owned mechanisms of production & distribution. But Capitalism as a society-wide way of “ordering exchange” must be condemned, abolished, rejected from the jump.

    Any analysis which does not start with the need to abolish the Capitalist Mode of Production is nonsense. A lot of verbiage productive of nothing but confusion. A way to divert people from looking directly at the problem.

    Much more could be said but that’s all I have time for. Sorry.

  45. bozh said on December 17th, 2009 at 4:30pm #

    Money appears a an useful tool. The basic problem appears that some people are wealthier, much wealthier, or extremely wealthier.
    Of course, some money uses are evil such as hiring a person to kill another or pay soldiers to kill ‘aliens’.
    But no tool can be vitiating; only people. Inequality in wealth and econo-military-educational powers appears as root of all ills that befall us on interpersonal and internat’l levels.

    Change this large inequality to a structure that is les or much less so and wars end. In such a structure all basic human rights wld be respected by ?all people.

    Or ban use of money when people run for office. And if one is caught taking money or gifts from s’mone, s/he shld be jailed.
    If one wants to get elected let him/her walk from door to door. Don’t allow any human being to stand on a podium looking dwn on u and give u prepared ‘answers’ and only to questions that the man on pedestal approves of or knows ‘answers’ for.
    Make her/him sit or stand in a circle. Nothing annoys me more than to listen to a politician on tv giving his preparation H to me. And precisely not because i do have those growths.
    This post does not condemn or wants to eliminate classes; at least not for millennia. So i did not fall into a trap of those who wld call me utopian because i want to eliminate classes. I don’t nor is it possible or desirable to eliminate classes by any method save education and people’s willingness not consider self supperior because of what they do.
    One day, if we defeat fascism, ?all people wld say, Eat, have security, freedom, and let eat, etc.
    And i am not talkng ab socialisms, capitalisms, marx, smith! tnx

  46. Max Shields said on December 17th, 2009 at 5:22pm #

    ajohnstone, Marx is outdated not based entirely on what he describes, but on what others think he “prescribes”. That is a key distinction.

    One can analyze a condition and not provide what is needed, TODAY.
    And that’s fine, but those who want Marx to speak to what is needed are turning what humans do – emerge. It is not about following a “blueprint”. This is why I think parecon is so limiting. It attempts to micro-arrange relationships. Life is not about micro-arranging. It is self-organizing and endlessly emerging at its best.

    There is something terribly authoritarian about this notion some hold of Marx – it is as some have said the anti-anti. To be a Marxist is to be the opposite side of the same coin of Capitalism. Such dichotomies exist, not as separate life systems but as contrived counter existences – one always needing the OTHER to justify its existence. The US, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Authoritarian Capitalism/State Capitalism of China lost its enemiess – it’s reason for being and has yet to find it as this military complex goes hunting for “terrorists” as an alternative “enemy”; it’s a tragic-comedy.

  47. Deadbeat said on December 17th, 2009 at 6:06pm #

    James Keye writes …

    The hostility and ad hominem style of your commenting only weakens what might be otherwise effective arguments.

    I found this comment rather condesending especially since I am not one with a contemptous opinion of the human race — the vast majority of whom are repressed under Capitalism.

  48. dan e said on December 17th, 2009 at 8:37pm #

    So according Max, Marx is outdated not because his analysis of the capitalist system is incorrect, inaccurate, but because of what Max and “others” think he “prescribes”. What a collosal non-sequitur:)

    For the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with Marx’s writings, he always emphasized that he was NOT prescribing any particular form of government or institutions, which in his view was up to the Working Class itself to decide once it had freed itself from the tyranny imposed by the capitalist class.

    And Jas Keye has “no idea” what I’m talking about. I believe it.

    Am I not obliged to weigh in when I can, to try to provide a warning to fresher minds who may be sucked in by all this “economical” or/and “ecological” intellectualizing? Am I not obliged to holler Stop, Go Back, Going the Wrong Way? To shout Look Out, this stuff is Poison?

    I’m sorry, Kim, if such frank expression is out of bounds on DV, but that’s how it looks to me. Yes, Mr Keye’s and Mr Max’s ra — er, opinions, DO give rise to a degree of “hostility” on my part. I also feel considerable hostility whenever I see Obama on the TV screen. Does this mean I’m crazy or stupid?
    BTW, I often disagree with Shabnam’s ideas, but one thing I like about her is that she’s MAD. She’s furious “with a capital F”, outraged by what she sees happening, outraged by the blizzard of lies surrounding us all. Good for her!

  49. Kim Petersen said on December 18th, 2009 at 6:46am #

    Everyone is entitled to reach his/her own conclusion. Upon hearing the conclusion of another person, you are free to disagree or agree.

    If the purpose is to convince others of the rightness or wrongness of your or someone else’s conclusions, then I submit ranting/impoliteness/hostility only detract from your goal.

    Seek to persuade others through superior rationalization with irrefutable facts.