CAPITALISM AT THE DEATH? September 24, 2012Posted by wmmbb in Environment, US Politics.
Political analysis is not sufficient, because it must be followed by action and implementation.
We are often blind, caught in the bubble of the existence into which we were born, into a system whose processes and functions, we often do not fully comprehend. History allows us to stand back and experience the shock of recognition. And to do that might be the highest calling of historians.
Morris Berman, who lives in Mexico, is an American historian and social critic. He describes the historians who analysis structures of thought and action that prefigure events, and in retrospect help to explain them. If the interpretation is true then consciousness creates political reality, the boundaries of thought and the possibilities of action, and coincidentally reinforces the priority of advertising, brain washing and propaganda in general.
He recently wrote in Counterpunch, The Waning of the Modern Ages.
The “arc” of capitalism, according to this school, is about 600 years long, from 1500 to 2100. It is our particular (mis)fortune to be living through the beginning of the end, the disintegration of capitalism as a world system. It was mostly commercial capital in the sixteenth century, evolving into industrial capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then moving on to financial capital—money created by money itself, and by speculation in currency—in the twentieth and twenty-first. In dialectical fashion, it will be the very success of the system that eventually does it in.
(What is good here is the qualitatively different expressions of capitalism have been identified, and the sense that they take time to fully evolve and develop into another species. Of course, specieation is a very difficult concept for those of us who are not evolutionary biologists. Yet one images in its human and social context it has to do with changes of consciousness, if that idea can be properly understood. I suspect that communication systems, make a huge difference. )
The last time a change of this magnitude occurred was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, during which time the medieval world began to come apart and be replaced by the modern one. In his classic study of the period, The Waning of the Middle Ages, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga depicted the time as one of depression and cultural exhaustion—like our own age, not much fun to live through. One reason for this is that the world is literally perched over an abyss. What lies ahead is largely unknown, and to have to hover over an abyss for a long time is, to put it colloquially, a bit of a drag. The same thing was true at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire as well, on the ruins of which the feudal system slowly arose.
He then takes some time to consider “a remarkable essay” by Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine – not the other Naomi, Wolf. In essence the Right gets what the Left will not admit that climate change means that capitalism, at least as we have known it is finished, but then they claim into a cave of denial, and look presumably at the shadows on the wall.
Naomi Klein had observed:
“The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits….These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress.”
And as “the arc of capitalism comes to a close”:
“The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations. Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. ‘Free-market climate solutions,’ as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets. And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks….As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, and that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed.”
Morris Berman continues:
To put it bluntly, the scale of change required cannot happen without a massive implosion of the current system. This was true at the end of the Roman Empire, it was true at the end of the Middle Ages, and it is true today. In the case of the Roman Empire, as I discuss in The Twilight of American Culture, there was the emergence of monastic orders that began to preserve the treasures of Graeco-Roman civilization. My question in that book was: Can something similar happen today?
. . . In a word, its number is up, and it is our fortune or misfortune, as I said before, to be living during a time of very large, and very difficult, transition. An old way of life dies, a new one eventually comes into being. Of this, the poet Mark Strand remarks: “No need to rush; the end of the world is only the end of the world as you know it.” For some odd reason, I find that thought rather comforting.
Climate change is as remorseless, as it is inevitable. The prospect might be we human manage to leave a gravestone, which in all probability will be left unread. This will be a very sad outcome, simultaneously a mute testament to stupidity and denial of the potential of human consciousness.
Is it too much to suppose that the sources of the problem, including the capitalist corporations, might be the source of the solution. Hegel, for example, was an optimist. Given time, as the Earth turns about the Sun, at once indifferent and beneficent, reason might yet triumph. The clock is ticking, we ignore it at our peril. Still metamorphosis, the biological paradigm change model, may still be possible.
Morris Berman talks, at length, on Why America Failed – a long talk without introductory advertising:
- Climate-change idiots (1) (blogs.redding.com)
- America’s miasma of misinformation on climate change | Anna M Clark (guardian.co.uk)
- Immanuel Wallerstein’s Historical Capitalism (timesflowstemmed.com)
- Value and the Demise of Capitalism: Reconciling Postone and Kurz (pogoprinciple.wordpress.com)
- Can Idealism Survive in Capitalism’s Universe? (lindvedpress.com)
- The Day After Capitalism (teknoluhjee.wordpress.com)
- The Waning of the Modern Ages (counterpunch.org)