Is a steady state economy a genuine alternative to a capitalist economy? Either way is it even feasible? Green Parties are on board, what does that mean for ecosocialists within Green Parties?
Here is some very brief background reading with associated links firstly from green party economist Molly Cato and then from Ian Angus' treasure trove climate and capitalism.
Capitalist economics is an unreliable process of booms and slumps, and an unpleasant process of competition, where those who win necessarily do so at the expense of those who lose. Within an economy or economies structured along these lines convergence is not possible. The Green vision of a steady-state economy, where goods and services are provided locally and without economic growth in economies that have already reached their sustainable level, suggests that such convergence over the long term might be possible. We suggest that the government consider such an economic vision as a serious alternative to the capitalist, competitive economic culture that now dominates almost all political thinking. This would have the positive side-effect of prioritizing the well-being of the planet and all its people over the profit-making of the few who dominate the present economy.
An ecosocialist critique of proposals for steady-state capitalism begins a debate on key issues facing the left greens todayThere’s widespread agreement among left-leaning greens that this society’s drive for economic growth is a key driving force of the global environmental crisis. Many, most notably environmental economist Herman Daly, have made proposals for a “steady-state economy”that allows market forces to operate without growth. That idea is the subject of an important debate in Real World Economics Review, an online journal that often publishes valuable critiquesx of mainstream economic thought.
In issue #53, Richard Smith provides a powerful ecosocialist critique of Daly’s theories, arguing that “the idea of a steady-state capitalism is based on untenable assumptions, starting with the assumption that growth is optional rather than built into capitalism.”
“since capitalist growth cannot be stopped, or even slowed, and since the market-driven growth is driving us toward collapse, ecological economists should abandon the fantasy of a steady-state capitalism and get on with the project figuring out what a post–capitalist economic democracy could look like.”
And he concludes: “Either we save capitalism or we save ourselves. We can’t save both.”
In a brief reply in issue #54, Herman Daly declares that he has never used the term steady-state capitalism, instead “always speaking of a steady state economy, which in my view is something different from both capitalism and socialism.” Smith, he says, opposes “my preference for the market over centralized planning as a tool for dealing with the single problem of allocative efficiency,” but doesn’t offer “anything specific or helpful about moving to a steady state economy, whether capitalist or socialist or neither.”
In issue #55, and in the journal’s blog, Smith responds that while Daly has not described his proposal as capitalist, neither has he said what it actually is.
“If there is nothing particularly ‘socialist’ about Daly’s SSE model and he insists that the means of production must be privately owned and that markets ‘determine the allocation of resources,’ then what else can he talking about but capitalism?”
Recommended reading for anyone interested in alternatives to this ecocidal system.
If you identify as an ecosocialist are you likely to be most at home with your national green party? Local Socialist Party? or neither preferring to associate with grassroots social movements or perhaps a trade union. Maybe some combination of the above? What is available in your particular locality or country may make your options or lack thereof more plain. Many members of the England & Wales Green Party identify themselves as 'ecosocialist'. There is also an adjoined green/left, ecosocialist, anti-capitalist grouping and a quick look at GP policies and actions over the past year would suggest that in this country, ecosocialists may feel quite at home within the green party. It would be interesting to run a poll to find what percentage of GP members would identify with the label ecosocialist. I will post this in as many green party and ecosocialist forums as I can find. I will limit this poll to GP England and Wales, but will gladly create more polls that may provide some insight for the above questions (Let me know if you have a question that a poll could help answer, perhaps country specific)
If you do or do not identify as an ecosocialist it would be interesting to know your reasoning, which you can add in to the comments box. Many Thanks.
This is a brilliantly 'ecosocialist' approach to reducing 'anti-social' behavior. We know if we 'grow our own' or support local agriculture we are significantly reducing our carbon footprint, as foods do not need to be transported long distances, we also can control directly the level to which our food is influenced by chemicals. In addition growing your own is a step toward creating cracks in capitalism as it is essentially a form of boycott; a move away from Monsanto and the like, and the corporate-media-political complex. And you know what, it feels good too, I have been growing my own for one year, and today ate Carrots, Courgettes, Runner Beans, Potato in a cheese sauce, the first meal I have had when my own produce dominated the plate, and I enjoyed it more than any meal I can remember, sure it was nice but knowing that food intimately from seed to plate enhanced the satisfaction, more than I could have imagined! But what has this got to do with anti-social behaviour? The concept is well-established; engaging community, cooperation and sharing around food production; (Community is something they used to have in the olden days for anyone my age or younger) But cutting anti-social behaviour? Anti-social behaviour is often associated with young people (I refer to the London riots, Nick Clegg teenage arson attempt; apparently not charged, David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Bullingdon boys smashing windows on a friday night lash-up). But when I was 15 if you asked me to come down tut allotment and do some gardening I would probably have stubbed out my spliff in your eye and laughed at your ridiculous proposal. It would seem however that community agriculture has form, and staggeringly so, in a Manchester neighbourhood, anti-social behaviour has fallen by over 50% the reason according to police and community members is unanimous it is the local allotment. And you know what when I was 15 if you had told me that by getting involved in community agriculture I would be entering in to an anti-capitalist, grass-roots social movement and if you had taught me about the Zapastistas the landless farmers movements in Latin America, Hugo Blanco and the commons you would have got my attention, and I might even have shared my spliff with you instead.
In short in light of the riots the very real expression of the frustration, the hopelessness, the anger and the massive disengagement from community I would seriously urge the greens to explore this as a genuine policy response to recent events (maybe leave out the bits about spliffs and so on, I was only joking have never seen one before) It is realistic, practical and achievable. By no means a 'magic-bullet' to all of societies ills it is however not unreasonable to propose that with increased community engagement around food production that improved nutrition, increased school performance and over-all well-being could also be expected.
In contrast the Conservatives would prefer to continue creating these problems and then appearing really stern when it all kicks off kind of like smoking when you've got already got lung cancer and offering aspirin for treatment. The greatest obscenity offered by our government in this age of austerity when interest in allotments has seen a boom unprecedented since the post-war years is the move announced by Ed Pickles to end the >100yr old law that dictates local authorities should provide land for local people to grow their own. What will cash strapped councils be forced to do with this allotment land? Unless we fight it I imagine we will see a lot more Tesco-Express and the like in their place and we will be increasingly forced toward civil disobedience. If you are young person what else are you likely to do anyway? go to the youth club? in my hometown 27 youth clubs have closed in the last year, access to all those community leaders was lost, was it really a surprise that in the summer holidays things kicked off?
Here is the article
and video clip I have referred to:In 2009, the early days of Landshare, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited a community allotment for local residents in Leigh, Greater Manchester, as part of a River Cottage programme. Two years on, the allotments are thriving, and local police are amazed to find that anti-social behaviour has fallen by over 50% in the area.
The community allotment is a joint venture between the Leigh Neighbourhood Policing Team and Wigan Council, and was spearheaded by two very determined ladies – Doreen and Marg. It was set up to encourage young people to take an interest in growing their own fruit and veg. Visiting the site, Hugh said:
“I am absolutely certain that it will make a real difference to the lives of dozens of kids. You can’t ask for more than that”.
He was right. Residents are able to take on individual allotment plots at the site, and the site is well used by young people. But local police are astounded by the massive drop in the amount of anti-social behaviour on the estate since the allotments were established, and believe that the allotments have had a significant impact on that fall in social problems.
Local police who helped set up the allotments have reported an incredible fall in the amount of anti-social behaviour in the last two years since, the allotments were established, and Police Community Support Officer Wendy Walters said, “In the past year there has been a staggering 51% reduction in Anti-Social behaviour on the estate”.
Locals agree that the allotments have had a positive effect on reducing anti-social behaviour. One of the local residents commented, “Over the past two years the estate has seen a great improvement in Anti-Social behaviour since the allotment started, I’m sure that this has had an effect giving children somewhere to go and something to do”.
Growing your own food is well known to have a positive effect on health
, and recent research by the Food for Life Partnership also found that growing and eating healthy food in schools also improved the behaviour and performance of school pupils
. The massive reduction in anti-social behaviour seen at Leigh Allotments is further evidence of the personal and social benefits of growing and eating healthy, fresh food with our families and local communities.
Thanks to Ian Cropton for the link.
Based on the headline your first reaction might be, why would he bother? Hasn't his Granddad already achieved such a feat allbeit on the mainland? The democracy we have is for the most part illusory and corporations already own government and many of the people through corporate media and advertising. But Friedman junior's idea would pave the way for a more pure interpretation of his granddad's free market ideals. Pure in that there would be no government to manipulate or working class to labotimize. Both time consuming and irritating activities for neoliberals and they don't always succeed.
The proposed island would be afloat and would be able to hoist anchor and move around. Initially it would be situated 12 miles off the Californian coast. Tens of millions of residents are 'expected' by the time it's completed (in 2040) and may ultimately be floated down the Pacific toward San Diego. The project has already attracted $2 million and is backed by the co-founder of paypal Peter Thiel who comments "in San Francisco there's no room for competition, and government uses the threat of violence to impose rules," Blimey, sounds like neoliberalism then.
The rationale according to Patri; referring to the limitations of setting up the project on the mainland is "because I can't come up with my own whole set of rules and implement it,". Oh, the joys of dictatorship. The team ( a think tank of 10) plans to colonize the sea beyond the reach of existing nations thus creating a political vacuum. "We can't experiment here because all the land is claimed - the only place left is the ocean," Sadly Friedman junior forgets the countless thousands of executions that were required in Chile when Friedman senior and the Chicago boys first rolled out and experimented with free market neoliberalism. However unlike Chile and, everywhere else you would have the choice to opt in "I envision tens of millions of people in an Apple or a Google country," where the high-tech giants would govern and residents would have no vote. If people are allowed to opt in or out, you can have a successful dictatorship," . Just dreamy ain't it.
We should not mock, this does of course open an interesting opportunity for the rest of us. Perhaps the corporations 'the big 500" Monsanto, Cargill and wealthy capitalist friends could all be persuaded to join the corporate flotilla. It could become a kind of retirement home for an irrational, cruel and inhumane group of billionaires. It could represent a kind of zoo where the modern mainland human could witness the under-evolved, like homosapiens viewing waxworks of Neanderthals in a natural history museum. Undoubtedly on a long enough time-line they would meet the same fate as the Easter islanders as they obsessively worship growth, the bottom line, deregulation, free-market competition and so on; blinded by any extra-economic criteria as their society fades out like a pre-occupied leper who forgets to monitor his decaying limbs.
By leaving the rest of us on the mainland we could get down to the business of creating a socially and ecologically rational society. A world that could sustain life and reconnect with the spirit of solidarity and cooperation. Wouldn't it be that much easier.
On this day (11th May) in 1981 Bob Marley died after losing an 8 month battle with cancer. Astonishing to think that all he acheived occured in a life that lasted only 35 years. He was exposed to the staunch realities of abject poverty, low pay (formerly an autoworker) disease and a lack of political rights. This discontent and disillusionment provided the passion, drive and material for his words and actions. He urged proactivity amongst the repressed ’Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your rights. Nonetheless the sharp revolutionary edges, that were clearly at his core have somehow been commodified away. Trippy psychadelic posters on teenage walls, Ganja leaves, The compilation album, Legend that I think everyone my age had a copy of when it was first released 'on tape' with soft focus image on the front. A kind of more acceptable, less controversial, less abberant, capitalist re-branding. In the book Reggae and Caribbean Music, Dave Thompson writes about the commercialized pacification of Marley's more militant edge:
Bob Marley ranks among both the most popular and the most misunderstood figures in modern culture ... That the machine has utterly emasculated Marley is beyond doubt. Gone from the public record is the ghetto kid who dreamed of Che Guevara and the Black Panthers, and pinned their posters up in the Wailers Soul Shack record store; who believed in freedom; and the fighting which it necessitated, and dressed the part on an early album sleeve; whose heroes were James Brown and Muhammad Ali; whose God was Ras Tafari and whose sacrament was marijuana. Instead, the Bob Marley who surveys his kingdom today is smiling benevolence, a shining sun, a waving palm tree, and a string of hits which tumble out of polite radio like candy from a gumball machine. Of course it has assured his immortality. But it has also demeaned him beyond recognition. Bob Marley was worth far more.
I'm not one for deifing people but I can't help but wander how his political brain would have developed if he was still amongst us today; A rastafarian who practiced italism a movement with many convergences with modern ecosocialist thinking. It's also interesting to note that his children are involved in sustainable organic agriculture and business and believe that their Dad would have approved. In the book by Derek Wall, Babylon & Beyond, Nandor Tanczoz first Rastafarian member of parliament reminds us of the diverse contrbutions this school of thought has on modern green politics " If you chop the word 'capitalism' and discard cap 'italism' is the system that remains"
Less well known and incredibly aligned with the ecosocialist message is how Bob Marley is so significant for many indigenous communities e.g. Australian Aboriginals burn a sacred flame to honor his memory, members of the Native American Hopi and Havasupai tribe consider Marley to be the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy and In Nepal he is considered to be an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu.
In short, he argued that there needed to be a revolution, one that would have to be pragmatic and one that would take place primarily from within the opressed & working class, his green credentials are a given! (Bob Marley was an ecosocialist!)
The ecosocialists unite project now has a world class fully interactive website. Worthy of the cause it represents.
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Have a look at the 'A world to win website'
. More evidence that the ecosocialist 'meme' is being installed, as we move toward an ecological commons based society that can recognise extra-economic criteria. A 'teach in' is scheduled in London on sat 26th Feb 'Kicking Capitalism and building a sustainable economy'
. The AWTW produced the video below."A World to Win aims to inspire and give leadership to the movement against the consequences of global capitalism: growing inequality, poverty and starvation, ecological meltdown, war and authoritarian rule. A World to Win believes that the existing state is undemocratic, unrepresentative and dominated by corporate interests. Our aim, therefore, is to build support for a transfer of political and economic power to the working majority in society. We campaign for alternative democratic structures to the existing state. These will enable society to reorganise the economy along co-operative, not-for-profit, self-management lines. We strive to create a networked, non-hierarchical, interactive organisation. AWTW emphasises the importance of theoretical training and education as a guide to action"
According to UNICEF
there are 2.2 billion children in the world and 1 billion of these live in poverty, 22,000 of these are dyeing every day. More than 80% of the world's population lives in countries where income differentials between rich and poor are widening. Until we live in a post-capitalist world the gap between rich and poor will continue to rise. Despite the death of the scientific credibility of the climate change skeptic, Global CO2 emissions continue to rise and are already above the level that scientific consensus deems safe. What are we leaving for our children? With approaching half of the worlds children living in dire poverty we have to turn to children born into relative wealth and hope they can reverse what has been laid before them. Not that i'm implying we should put our feet up and leave it to them, we have to continue laying foundations so we can pass the baton on with some remedial hope.
If ecosocialism really is the panacea we believe it to be, then it will be the current generation of children that realises it's truth and lets face it, the natural intersection that exists between ecology and socialism is not a huge mental leap, perhaps a huge cultural leap for many, but for those who first walk the path of environmentalism that initial light bulb moment that bonds the green with the red is persuasive at least for those who can think rationally, scientifically and free from any cultural leanings to the contrary. The kids vs global warming campaign
was initiated by a 12 year old Californian, now 15. Remarkable in itself! and looks like he is doing some great work! I doubt he is surrounded by many socialist thinkers in the country that fears socialism more than any other and he takes inspiration from Al Gore, but look at the promo video here, the links with industry, fuel, greed, profit, corporations are all there, this could have been an ecosocialist campaign albeit not overtly, but I strongly suspect that it's initiators are not yet viewing environmentalism through a Marxian lens, or placing capitalism at the centre of the problem? I may be wrong! yet the negative relationships between ecology and capitalism are clearly displayed .
Ecosocialism seems such a 'no-brainer' for me after the past few years of life within a green left/red bubble, I wander if I'm missing something? is there still a green movement that exists that isn't 'ecosocialistic'? Is eco-capitalism just a benign referential term that implies a contrast to ecosocialism? or is there a genuine eco-capitalist environmentalism that contains genuine strategy outside of shifting emphasis to the individual i.e. buying eco-friendly light bulbs and the like or outside of the miserably inadequate cap and trade, I wander if i am too biased to entertain the notion of anything that is capitalism flavoured even if it were at least rational enough to require further debate, and the mantra of : 'the inherent logic of the system - relentless growth - finite resources' of course rings loudly in my mind but all pre-set biases and political leanings aside....are their pioneers, new schools of ecocapitalist thought, anything, anything that can exist within a capitalist framework (after all that is what we've got), that can offer any kind of hope, or warrant further debate without being acutely squashed by the large red-green boot? Answers on a post-card.....
I had a dictionary for christmas! Strangely coinciding with the start of my new blog.....Perhaps someone is trying to tell me something? Anyway, 'ecosocialism' is not in it. Surely this dictionary is broken, and as far as I'm aware so are all the others? So I have contacted the Oxford English dictionary and suggested that they add it. It appears they trawl the web for new words and then assess how 'relevant' a new entry is. A google search returns 75,200 results for ecosocialism and 36,600 for ecosocialist. I would say the term is blatantly relevant. I am of course a tad biased. Nonetheless if there are any facebookers amongst you that feel the same way join the cause below; based on the entry criteria, I would say by virtue of reading this blog and joining the cause you will genuinely strengthen the case!
4 people have joined in the time it took me to write this blog!
This video is a magisterial overview of the inept 'cap and trade' system. The core belief of the ecosocialist movement is that capitalist solutions to environmental problems are miserably inadequate; ultimately the fear is, that although these solutions may well be subject to some degree of positive change, that inevitably these changes will not be of significantly great a magnitude in order to prevent the actualisation of what climate scientists predict. Of course all ecosocialists would gladly like to be proved 100% wrong at which point we could close down our blogs, throw our manifestos on the compost heap, and spend more time tending to our veggie patches, or whatever other stereotypical things it is that we may do.
The ecosocialist movement has to exist. It has encouraged much of the 'left' to sing from the same hymn sheet, or at least from the same hymn book. The question 'The end of capitalism, or the end of the world?' had to be asked. This was the subheading of Joel Kovel's seminal work. Worryingly as time goes by, we see ever more examples of the affects of capitalist greed over long term need. The global economy has become more unstable, social inequality has increased and as this video explains, when the fat cats are involved in a problem they essentially have only one tool in their armoury; to commidify, to make money. It is the inherent logic of the system. An already overweight bird that continues feeding with perhaps some minor, half hearted dietary adjustments will eventually lose the ability to fly (make money) and soil its own nest (the economy and the capacity of the earth to support human life). Ecosocialists can get a bit gloomy, using words that can perhaps be counterproductive when trying to encourage mainstream support i.e. ecocatastrophe, ecocide etc; but hey, can you blame us?