[p2p-research] interesting political text by alex foti

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Nov 5 03:18:49 CET 2009

Some of the same insights I've been coming to, some different.

Where I agree:
* we need to separate thinking about a physical economy from thinking about 
ration unit movements, and if the physical economy has been priced at only a 
tiny fraction of outstanding ration units, then the system can become 
* we need to shift our economy to greener methods for several reasons 
(health, security, prosperity).
* people need to focus on equity of access to the industrial commons (the 
Triple Revolution point, or a "basic income").

Where I disagree:
* I feel that carbon issues are IMHO not as big as these other issues along 
the lines Freeman Dyson suggests (basically, we now have a cult of carbon, 
where people have stopped thinking rationally about this, given that it 
would cost at most a few percent of the world gross product to deal with 
climate change issues which seem irreversible at this point anyway (although 
in twenty years time we may be able to remove excess carbon and methane and 
so on from the air easily in several ways) -- the issue is mostly, who 
should pay?).
* I think it unlikely productivity will go down with "internalizing external 
costs" which is a major premise in the article. Many polluting production 
methods are just the product of ignorance or arguments over control. 
Historically, doing things the better way hardly costs any more, and usually 
is cheaper in the end. And this is an area of active research:
And when it does cost more, if everyone does it, the costs are hardly 
noticed by the end consumer and profits are effectively unchanged. Look at 
how much in recycled in relation to cars, both the bodies and the fluids, 
and how much more efficient they are and less polluting than decades ago, 
and car prices have been stable for decades adjusted for inflation, while 
perceived quality has generally improved (they handle better, they last 
longer, they are safer, they sound better, etc. barring some nostalgia or 
some poor choices about SUVs).
* I feel that any economy based on mostly rationing and "the value of labor" 
IMHO will not make sense in twenty years as robots and AI continue to 
develop, and as we get better designs for products as well as for 3D 
printers or other productive system, all producing structural permanent 
unemployment as the services industry follows the lead of the agricultural 
and then industrial sectors in being automated out of most of its existence. 
You think someone in ten years won't have a piece of software that does a 
better job than most mortgage brokers? Who thinks computers won't be able to 
replace most taxi drivers in twenty years? Would you rather have a human 
doctor in twenty years or a robot doctor (like the holographic doctor Star 
Trek Voyager) who literally is part of a computer network a million times 
smarter and more knowledgeable (and even funnier) than any human doctor and 
can spend hours with you listening to you talk about your life in detail if 
you want? And so on...
* I feel that in a world of abundance based mostly on creativity and 
information (like programming robots to do stuff no one wants to do), that 
"reward is no motivator", even if people need access to resources to live:
* I feel that, given the last thirty years have seen vast productivity 
growth in the USA but a decrease in real wages (it's true quality of 
computers and cars have gone up, but food and physical community quality has 
gone down), then it is unlikely any subsequent productivity gains will be 
distributed either without major social changes. See the "Capitalism hits 
the fan" site by Richard Wolff (not that I totally agree with his solutions 
but he describes the problem well):

So, I feel this article below is a good step forward, especially the talk 
about "precarity" like Michel has mentioned before, but I still feel the 
article misses key aspects of the bigger picture.

It does not matter if we get "climate justice" if we also get military 
robots enforcing artificial scarcity. It does not matter if we "motivate" 
programmers with great rewards to make proprietary robot doctor software if 
it is worse than the people who love to tinker could do if they just had the 
time from a basic income. It does not matter if there is vast productivity 
growth in physical manufacturing if it all goes to war, schooling, prisons, 
faddish consumerism, and other nonsense and children lose their human 
families and human communities to it all. It does not matter if we get a 
green infrastructure and even a secure income if we get wiped out by some 
influenza plague a twelve year old downloads from the internet and we have 
no intrinsically mutually secure way to promote health in a p2p way (like 
widespread knowledge about vitamin D deficiency syndrome, or a widespread 
ability to detect and respond to the problem, or whatever).

I feel there is an aspect of this article that is running the risk of 
becoming the enemy. :-) Just like when you meet violent evil (WTC crime) 
with violent evil (Predator Drones in Pakistan), you become evil, when you 
meet scarcity economics with more scarcity economics, do you become a 
scarcity enabler? :-( As a society, IMHO we don't need to win against an 
elite; we need to transcend the conflict entirely. Besides, it's often easy 
to "win" many wars (look at Iraq, that collapsed militarily immediately, 
because it was a hollow shell conceptually); what is usually harder is 
winning the peace and building an alternative that is better (otherwise 
there are years of civil disorder). So, we need to build alternative 
institutions based on alternative paradigms, which will replace the others 
as they continue to fail in various ways (financially, physically, and 

Anyway, to really move past all this, we have to be talking more details. 
How much energy should we produce? For what reasons? How much stuff do 
various people need to be happy? How can we produce walkable communities 
with good urban planning? How do you build a good robot doctor, or 
alternatively, empower human doctors with the wisdom of the entire medical 
community at their fingertips? And so on.

Still, the first paragraph is really good. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> How real is green capitalism, and what does it mean for the
> precarious?<http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=5748>
> [image: photo of Michel Bauwens]
> Michel Bauwens
> 5th November 2009
>  Below is a large extract from an interesting political
> thoughtpiece<http://www.greatrecession.info/2009/11/03/the-precarious-question-and-the-climate-struggle/>from
> *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;
> under
> 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
> possible.*
> *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
> progress.*
> *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”
> produced.*
> *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.”*
> *(
> http://www.greatrecession.info/2009/11/03/the-precarious-question-and-the-climate-struggle/
> )*
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> p2presearch mailing list
> p2presearch at listcultures.org
> http://listcultures.org/mailman/listinfo/p2presearch_listcultures.org

More information about the p2presearch mailing list