[p2p-research] interesting political text by alex foti

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 00:57:57 CET 2009

How real is green capitalism, and what does it mean for the
[image: photo of Michel Bauwens]
Michel Bauwens
5th November 2009

 Below is a large extract from an interesting political
*Alex Foti*:

*“The issue of the distribution of productivity is crucial. The structural
cause of the Great Recession lies in the failure of neoliberalism to
distribute the productivity growth afforded by the digital revolution to
large strata of society, who then had to take on debt to finance consumption
of the new informational goods and services. Green capitalism wants to solve
the economic crisis via green jobs and a new welfare system, but it will
succeed in its task, only if it manages to widely redistribute what Negri
and Hardt call “common wealth” i.e. the backlog of collective inventions,
creations, relations and desires presently appropriated by Gates, Murdoch,
Berlusconi, and the like.*

*The debate is open among leftists about whether green capitalism is
economically sustainable (possibly so), and if so, if will lead to
ecological sustainability (hardly so). Ecomarxists, for whom the labor
theory of value is dogma, believe that the ecological crisis entails a
squeeze in the rate of surplus value and thus a tendency for the rate of
profit to fall*. Empirically, if productivity declines because of the
ecological crisis, due to increases in the cost of energy or to the
internalization (inclusion in the business cost of products and services) of
the environmental damages caused by the economic process, then ecomarxists
are right and green capitalism is unsustainable due to falling profits. If,
conversely the ecological crisis triggers a green technological revolution,
the rate of profit can stay equal as wages rise, so that green capitalism
can create its own demand. In simpler words, if green capitalism is just
greenwashing, i.e. marketing hype unsupported by hard facts, ultimately the
ecological crisis will end up endangering capitalist accumulation leading to
the the common ruin of today’s contending social classes: the global élite
and the transnational precariat. If, on the other hand, green capitalism is
the harbinger of a fourth industrial revolution (first: steam and textiles;
second: electricity, steel, chemicals; third: electronics, networking;
fourth: genomics, greenomics), productivity will rise and this would create
a favorable context for victories on wages and labor conditions, as well as
ease political resistance to income redistribution via progressive
taxation(when taxes hit the rich proportionally more than the poor;
neoliberalism taxation has instead been regressive). Another way of looking
at this is to consider the fact that the price of a good is equal to the
wage rate divided by productivity (production per hour worked) multiplied by
one plus the rate of profit, the margin that rewards the entrepreneur and
pays interest to the banker. At constant prices, if productivity increases
because of a rise in energy efficiency, either the wage rate rises or the
rate of profit must increase, or a combination of the two factors§.*

*Contrary to what Marx predicted, improvements in wages and living standards
have been made possible under capitalism thanks to the combination of
much-sweated technological innovation and hard-fought social redistribution.
Have these improvements come at the cost of bankrupting the biosphere? It
will end up like that if social resistance to capitalism is not strong
enough to decarbonize the economy. In other words, if climate anarchists
lose the incipient struggle with green capitalists. If movements lose the
fight for climate justice, Earth might become like Venus. From the
experience of the poor and precarious of New Orleans, we know the horrors
that lie in store when climate disaster strikes a class-polarized urban
society. The climate question conceals a social question, because the
precarious stand to lose the most in the biocrisis. On the other hand,
precarious need to be empowered to be effective antagonists to global
financial élites; only if they secure income and leisure, they can have the
freedom to erect the postcapitalist society. Precarious-to-precarious
community solutions to urban habitats, energy, food production and social
housing will have to become increasingly common as answers to unemployment
and environmental crisis. Whole cities can be redesigned by expanding
self-organized groups of precarious ecohacktivists living from their
collective labor and the sharing of what’s produced and exchanged in their
social networks.*

*If climate justice movements lose the battle that is taking tens of
thousands to Copenhagen in December and thus fail to impose their collective
will onto government and corporate technocrats, then by the middle of this
century most of us will be either drowned or toasted. What’s at stake is
neither the survival of capitalism nor industrialism, but of digital
civilization and the promise of the universal access to information,
knowledge and culture that the switch to postindustrialism has made

*Industrialism, informationalism, green capitalism*

*Green capitalism cannot be simply liquidated as a marketing ploy. It
embodies the faction of the global bourgeoisie that understands the reality
of climate change and of its own declining political legitimacy in the face
of the banking crisis and the consequent end of neoliberal/monetarist
hegemony. Capital does seek now to be submitted to a light top-down, as
opposed to bottom-up, form of regulation, which, while warranting the
survival of megabanks and megacorporations, tries to accommodate ecological
imperatives and social needs. Fossil capitalism, on the other hand, is
purely reactionary. It has long denied the existence of man-made planetary
heating and it is now lobbying to seize upon the spaces opened by
geopolitical (Iraq, Sudan etc become up for grabs) and ecological (the
North-East and North-West passages are open) disasters. It has spawned the
growth of an oil-military complex that is the biggest threat to the peace
and welfare of humankind. The open defeat of Bushism by Obama’s civil
society (young, women, Blacks, Latinos, churches, unions, community
movements) signals the decline of petromilitarism and the rise of green
capitalism. The new US administration is a definitely a friend of global
capitalism and to ensure its viability is putting forward a set of policies
amounting to eco-keynesian regulation lite, to salvage what’s left of the
hegemony of US banks and corporations over the world economy. Obama’s
economic policy is keynesian because it provides a demand stimulus via
deficit spending: in a deep recession, banks are not lending, firms are not
investing, consumers are not spending, so the state must step in to provide
spending power and capital for investment. But it is eco- in the sense it
provides incentives to augment energy efficiency of the economy and
de-carbonize part of its power production.*

*Original Fordist keynesianism was incredibly wasteful in energy terms. Oil
was made so cheap and consumer goods so abundant that the biosphere was
trashed in the short space of three decades (1945-1975). The Soviet bloc,
placing an increasingly oblolescent emphasis on heavy industry and lacking
societal counterbalances to communist policies of industrial might, was
proportionally more wasteful, producing a larger share of nuclear and
environmental disasters. In their ideological competition, both the US and
the USSR strove to empower their working classes as loyal citizens,
producers and consumers. Industrialism was their common structural base.
However, it will be wrong to look at the present ecological crisis as the
crisis of “industrial society”. In fact, over the last three decades,
informationalism has replaced industrialism as the dominant system of
accumulation. Indeed the failure of command economies to perform the
transition from industrialism to informationalism, from the electrical
engine to the electronic chip, is viewed by contemporary sociology as the
structural reason behind the implosion of the Soviet Union. Now the
inherited neoliberal form of informational capitalism is morphing into green
capitalism. The evidence for this is mounting: from Silicon Valley becoming
a hotbed for solar to green sectors soon surpassing aerospace and defense in
economic weight, according to a recent study made by the international bank
HSBC. Industrialism is dependent on oil, coal and other hydrocarbons in a
way that informationalism is not. Steel needs coal, the Net doesn’t. The
problem with green capitalism is that the scale effect is likely to more
than offset any improvements in energy intensity, so that emissions continue
rise. Left to its own instincts, green capitalism would be ecologically
unsustainable. A steady-state market economy can only come into being
through extreme regulation from below and above.*

*Yet, economic growth only has a meaning if measured in money terms, not in
physical terms. So, in principle a socially regulated form of capitalism can
be envisaged that still grows in dollar terms (and this overcomes the
economic crisis), but not in entropic terms. A stage of the economy where
immaterial growth becomes the norm, along with the maximization of
collective knowledge and social well-being, rather than corporate profit or
private wealth. An economy where people mostly exchange immaterial services
rather than material goods. In other words, a world where there’s money to
be made in the economy, because informational as well as green jobs are
available in large and increasing numbers. The question of growth must be
reconsidered, and is in fact being reconsidered by economists and
politicians in the light of the crisis: GDP will be soon replaced by
alternative indicator of economic performance and socio-environmental

*Today, the décroissance approach is likely to fall on deaf ears, because it
preaches parsimony to a population which is being precarized by the global
recession. Climate justice is definitely a stronger rallying cry for all the
forces resisting capitalist domination today, one that already resonates
from North to South. If the overdeveloped North must certainly decrease
material consumption, the recovery from the crisis can only occur if there’s
more effective demand in euro, dollar, yuan terms in the hands of those with
less money in their pockets and thus likely to spend it when given the
opportunity: the poor, women, precarious and/or immigrant youth. Social
regulation must ensure that this extra money is not spent at the mall but in
ways that are thermodynamically sound: into sustainable mobility, local
agricultural produce, reforestation, and renewable energy deployment, for
example. Social spending must be used to strengthen the social networks of
solidarity within and across generations and lands. The precarious strata
and the informal, marginal sectors of society are the ones that stand to
benefit the most from fiscal redistribution. Only generalized conflict can
emancipate the precarious and lead to sharp increases in social spending.*

*Like the wobblies a century ago, the precarious must organize across
genders and ethnic groups to create their own unions and fight for a much
larger slice of the pie. If the pie’s shrinking like Latouche wants, as
people save more and consume less, many more will be made jobless and the
precariat is gonna end up in an even more precarious condition than under
neoliberalism. It’s true that capitalism is addicted to growth, but this is
monetary growth, not necessarily an increase in the amount of “stuff”

*The distinction between bounded material growth and unbounded immaterial
growth is useful to conceive a social scenario that is postcapitalist and
progressive. Politically, this would also be a society where the different
aims of anarchosyndicalists (constructing a postcapitalist egalitarian
commonwealth) and anarchogreens (creating a thermodynamicist society of
peers on a biodiverse planet) can be reconciled. It’s a social scenario
where the autonomous, pirate, queer practices of the immaterial precariat
are able to defeat the political offensive of green capitalism and drive the
transition toward postcapitalism, an economy meeting ecological and social
targets where grassroots experimentation is encouraged and regulation is
horizontal and bottom-up, rather than vertical and top-down. To address both
the economic and ecological crisis in my view we would have to push for a
service, relational, commons-based peer-production economy, whose aim is the
growth in knowledge, leisure and culture as opposed to the growth of goods
and material wealth. This would be a society based on ecological
remediation, immaterial accumulation and the maximization of happiness among
its participants, rather than on material opulence for a minority of people.

*Synopsis so far: we have an economic and ecological crisis of capitalism
where class and climate struggles become central. The social actors of class
struggle are new, since capitalism is no longer industrial, but has become
informational. They are the precarious, those whose rights and talents have
been immolated on the altar of labor flexibility and financial profit. The
precarious in the informational economy must embrace the climate question,
because the solidaristic postcapitalist welfare society they demand can only
be achieved if the ecological struggle fought by the climate anarchists is
won. Since the precariat is the new anticapitalist social subject, radical
ecology shall become its ideology.”*


Work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhurakij_Pundit_University - Research:
http://www.dpu.ac.th/dpuic/info/Research.html - Think thank:

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