[p2p-research] Fwd: 20 Theses against green capitalism

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 9 03:37:29 CEST 2009

Hi Paul,

I'm not sure that the higher productivity leads to unemployment really is
that radical of the limitation you think it is.

I'm not talking about the structural/cyclical crises of overproduction, but
more fundamentally. Each time such a crisis of mass unemployment was
predicted, it was resolved (beyond a structural presence of say 5%

First, needs are socially determined, and the system makes sure that people
keep wanting the new iterations, keeping the machine running. Second, the
immaterial needs evolve as well, and materially secure people evolve
post-material needs. The productivity growth from the material economy, can
be used to 'fund' the immaterial servicing and sharing. That it doesn't work
is a political/social problem, i.e. neoliberalism has deliberately severed
the connection and social contract that allowed to use the proceeds from
higher productivity, to fund labour, and therefore these new social needs.
If you look at countries with mass unemployment, there are much less an
expression of people not having material or immaterial needs, on the
contrary, they are huge and unmet, but exclusively a problem of the
unavailability of the social surplus.

But I think that despite the different analysis, we nevertheless agree in
the solution, i.e. the basic income, which is exacly a stream originating in
the rich material economy, to fund the immaterial sphere.

I of course also disagree that issues like global warming, and the massive
relocation that you describe as a solution, are the type of 'easy' solutions
that you expect them to be. On the contrary, even in a just society, they
would still be very difficult problems to solve, let alone in a
dysfunctional class society that is geared to the benefits for the few.

And the kind of technological miracles that you expect, like space habitats
and the like, are generations away, there is not an inch of possibility that
they could solve any of our current problems. We need radically different
kinds of technological dreams, that are geared towards the need of the
majority of the population, the farmers for example, and not transhumanist


On Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 7:54 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> Michel Bauwens wrote:
>> These are important and interesting theses to reflect on. Some initial
>> comments in-line
>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>> From: Dante-Gabryell Monson <dante.monson at gmail.com>
>> Date: Sun, Aug 2, 2009 at 10:27 PM
>> Subject: 20 Theses against green capitalism
>> To: sustainable_solidarity at yahoogroups.com, hc_ecology at yahoogroups.com
>> *20 Theses against green capitalism
>> Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis
>> *http://slash.autonomedia.org/node/11656
> I agree with a lot of this, but I also think is misses some key ideas.
> Capitalism's need to grow is mentioned several times, but not explored.
> There are at various reasons capitalism needs continued growth (debt-based
> fiat currencies, demographic pyramid schemes, etc.), but the most important
> issue from a social justice perspective IMHO is that increasing productivity
> leads to job loss given finite demand for goods, or at least, that demand,
> once saturated, grows more slowly than productivity (since, ultimately, the
> best things in life are free or cheap). One fundamental aspect of current
> capitalism is that the right to consume comes from income earned through a
> job (unless you have a lot of capital :-) as mentioned in the "Triple
> Revolution" memorandum of 1964.
> Nothing in these green themes addresses that issue of how increasing
> productivity puts pressure on the entire social system, given that free
> markets may often be great at producing wealth (ignoring externalities or
> resource depletion) but markets are also great at concentrating wealth (so,
> the free market less and less hears the demands of people at the edges). We
> might get some green jobs with a greenwashed capitalism, but we'll still
> overall lose jobs from rising productivity and people will starve unless
> they have money (or, alternatively, can produce at a subsistence level
> themselves, something that is difficult without at least some capital like
> land and equipment and raw materials and good health). So, IMHO, a basic
> income has to be part of any future approach in order for a capitalist
> system to continue to work in the situation of limited or stagnant growth.
> Some might call a basic income as a form of charitable "welfare", but IHMO a
> basic income is more the idea every human has a claim to part of the commons
> -- a commons of ideas and technologies, a commons of biodiversity, a commons
> of mineral wealth, a commons of social networking capital, and so on.
> Now, if one accepts the idea of a basic income, and that a basic income
> eventually should be global, then some of the issues like global climate
> change (that those 20 theses are concerned about in various places) are not
> as problematical. The global world product is something like US$60 trillion
> per year, or about US$10,000 per person in round numbers. If, through
> taxation or other policy, every human got half that, so US$5000 per year
> (which is not that much in the USA but is a lot in much of the rest of the
> world) then things like global climate change would not be that much of a
> problem. People would have the money to relocate, or build seawalls to hold
> back rising oceans, or they would build new floating islands. The central
> problem here is that many poor people are being forced to pay for a negative
> externality of capitalism (CO2 pollution causing global climate change
> affecting their lives) without having received much of any benefits from
> global capitalism.
> The fact is, no matter what people say in the media, global climate change
> is not a serious problem given our technological capacity. We have the
> technology to build new land in the oceans. We have the technology and empty
> land in places like the middle of Russia or the middle of the USA to
> relocate hundreds of millions of people and build them beautiful sustainable
> cities. We have the technology in storm tossed areas to build houses out of
> concrete that can take storms. We just lack the political will or economic
> control system to realize those technological possibilities. Something I
> wrote on that:
> "Re: On Climate Change vs. the Singularity"
> http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/browse_thread/thread/e954d16e32129bb7/183fed4ee1411253?hl=en#183fed4ee1411253
> All human efforts produce externalities; for capitalism there have been
> some negative externalities (like pollution such as CO2 causing climate
> change, or unintentional extinction causing a loss in biodiversity), as well
> as positive externalities (the commons of technology has grown, and the
> globe is now heavily networked). Ideally, we want to get the benefits of the
> efforts and also the positive externalities, but without the negative
> externalities. But, if you can't avoid the negative externalities, then, if
> the system makes sense at all because it produces so much wealth, one has to
> talk about having those who suffer negative externalities get a share of the
> wealth to compensate them for that (and that share should be on top of what
> they have a claim on in terms of the commons, as well). In human terms, that
> would be at least a basic income (and maybe even more). But, with species
> going extinct, in Gaian terms some sort of basic income as well as claim for
> negative externalities would mean habitat preservation, genetic sampling for
> future rebirths in simulation or in new habitats, and the construction of
> space habitats for all those species to have new places to live and so be
> better off in the long run in terms of survival.
> I actually like a lot of green ideas, but the Green party consistently
> seems to miss the possibilities of technology as well as some social equity
> issues, as far as trying to build on what we have in the best way possible.
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
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