"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Capitalism - An Evolutionary Dead End

The capitalist system that has evolved over the past five hundred years represents a test of our capacity for self-awareness and imagination. The system that brought us unparalleled material abundance has also directly caused massive degradation of our natural and human ecology. Our challenge at this moment is to recognize the threat posed by our own behavior and counter it decisively. The alternative is mass starvation and widespread upheaval that will leave our race decimated and our natural environment beyond repair for thousands of years. That we are failing this test is undeniable.

Science means nothing to the ruling powers when it comes into conflict with capital's demand for endless expansion. What the left fails to understand is that we love our illusions more than life itself. Only a religious revolution that restores (or perhaps initiates) the worship of truth can restore us to sanity. This "religion" applies to materialists and spiritualists equally.

From the viewpoint of human welfare, it is more important to destroy capitalism than it is to stave off the ecological crisis that is now upon us. As long as the spirit of capitalism endures, we will dodge or suffer one major crisis after another until we realize that capitalism thrives on catastrophe and finds its greatest profit opportunities precisely in the midst of it. Those struggling in the battle against climate change should take John Bellamy Foster's words very seriously, "Indeed, from the standpoint of capital accumulation, global warming and desertification are blessings in disguise, increasing the prospects of expanding private riches." - John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, "The Paradox of Wealth: Capitalism and Ecological Destruction", Monthly Review, November 2009.

Until this sickness in the human spirit is healed, there can be no solution to the ecological crisis. For that is precisely what capitalism is - a spiritual sickness that has latched onto the human soul devouring its life and producing material trivia that can never satisfy real human need and isn't really intended to. Capitalism is far from a neutral economic system. In the words of Joel Kovel, "From this standpoint there appears a greater 'ecological crisis,' of which the particular insults to ecosystems are elements. This has further implications. For human beings are part of nature, however ill-at-ease we may be with the role. There is therefore a human ecology as well as an ecology of forests and lakes. It follows that the larger ecological crisis would be generated by, and extend deeply into, an ecologically pathological society. Regarding the matter from this angle provided a more generous view. No longer trapped in a narrow economic determinism, one could see capital as much more than a simple material arrangement, but as something cancerous lodged in the human spirit, produced by, and producer of, the capitalist economy. It takes shape as a queer beast altogether, more a whole way of being than anything else." - Joel Kovel, "The Enemy of Nature", p. xii

It is as an entire way of being that capitalism must be opposed. Those who wonder why the ruling elite seem so little concerned with impending ecological catastrophe should pause to consider how little concerned they were (and still are) with preventing nuclear holocaust, the decimation of entire races during WWII, the enslavement and starvation of the continent of Africa, and many other tragedies for ordinary human beings. While we tend to see the floods and desertification caused by global warming as evils to be avoided by any means necessary, they see them quite differently. For them, these are outstanding opportunities to increase profit margins and accelerate the growth of capital. Who cares if the planet is destroyed, as long as the zeros continue to repeat?


Chris M said...

We are nearing the end of economic growth. We are depleting our renewable and non-renewable resources faster than ever, while at the same time destroying our environment, and our economic base. In other words, we're burning through our principal, not living off the interest.


Ben said...

We are indeed nearing the end of growth, and that means the end of capitalism. Without growth, capitalism cannot counteract the law of falling rate of profit so wonderfully described by Marx, and the system will collapse. The question is, Will we overthrow it before it destroys civilization completely?