Monday, February 06, 2017
There are many built-in aspects of what we call capitalism that are massively destructive and ultimately self-destructive. For example, capitalism has yet to prove it can work without slavery. By its nature unrestricted capitalism is an ultimate predator, eventually functioning like the vacuum cleaner monster in Yellow Submarine that sucks up everything, including its environment and then itself.
So by its nature, capitalism uses up all available resources as long as they are cheap enough. And today it makes the most expensive resources cheap enough by ignoring their costs completely. For instance, the effects on the environment, ecology and biosphere. In other words, it will happily destroy the Earth and everything it sustains (including capitalists) in pursuit of immediate profit.
This is one reason Kim Stanley Robinson believes that the climate crisis will never be successfully addressed under capitalism. KSR is a science-fiction writer who is to me is emerging as America's foremost public intellectual. He is deeply versed in technology, environmental issues and now in areas of economics.
This video is from 2015. He is speaking at UC Santa Cruz, beginning with the work and context of Callenbach's Ecotopia, a best-seller of the 1970s, and moving through a brilliant capsule conceptual history of the 60s and 70s to today.
He sees the end of the Cold War and the persistent and now more widely recognized problems of inequality and climate degradation as shifting the "window of acceptable discourse" to include questioning capitalism itself. He notes that Bernie Sanders at that point was polling well even though calling himself a socialist.
(He suggests that the window has moved to include more of the left, but might also include more of the right. It's interesting in this context to speculate on a certain panic among fossil capitalists leading to support for extreme right wingers, as at least a contributor to the current apocalyptic situation.)
Anyway, in this talk he has some fascinating and provocative analyses and ideas on how capitalism could be essentially done away with fairly quickly, and in the near future. In fact, it could be triggered deliberately by an act of (legal) civil rebellion. He does warn however that fully realizing this post-capitalist economy is the work of generations, a step process, that requires lifelong commitment.
He describes a contemporary Ecotopia novel that posits post-capitalism and how to get there. I suspect his new novel, New York 2140, coming out next month, will flesh out these ideas.
This is the most hopeful set of ideas I've heard in years. It's a future I'd want to live in. This is the "Dreaming Up" this place is supposed to be about.
He begins at about 11:25 of this video. And then it's a breathtaking run (for about 30 minutes, minus the intro and questions afterwards, although the questions and answers are interesting.) Currently on YouTube it's had just 302 views. Maybe we can add a few more here.
Spread the word.
It also occurs to me that Callenbach's Ecotopia is set pretty much where I'm living. So I'm going to have to go back and read it again.