Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Geographer David Harvey explains the internal contradictions of capital accumulation and why capitalism cannot accept a limit to growth.

As a bit of an aside, it's been interesting (now that I'm living in Brazil) for me to become aware of how a cold-war-like ideology dominates the common view of capitalism in the States. It's almost as if capitalism somehow means the opposite of socialism (good and bad). But here in Brazil (and I imagine most of the world), capitalism simply means a capital-accumulating economic system.

The theoretical solutions of the classical economists (the pure market of Adam Smith or the pure communism of Karl Marx) NEVER existed at any time anywhere! Today, we simply have state-driven hybrids -- a more unregulated market system in the U.S. and more state-controlled system in China -- but all are facing the contradictions of endless growth.

To get a sense of how unsolvable the contradictions of economic growth are check out this recent N.Y.Times report on China's inability to handle soaring consumer demand despite the most severe population regulation and most substantial energy efficiency improvements of any nation in the world. Bottom-line is that consumer demand is out of control and the global future is now being determined in Asia. That's the internal contradiction of a capital-accumulating economic system. The location of the growth engine is the only thing that changes.

If Marx turns out to be right, the whole thing will eventually result in collapse and the "withering away of the State" -- meaning large corporate institutions -- because the contradictions of growth and the accumulation of stuff (capital) are not controllable. All stuff ultimately comes from the earth. She has limits. Her justice will be severe.

What's the solution? With or without a revolution. David Harvey thinks it's worth thinking about. So do I. And so did the others the past. But there's something new now -- we really can't just assume that "it's gonna be all right." With 7 billion of us heading toward several billions more, we are going to have to find new ways to be together on earth.

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