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Re Duncan's [OPE-L:1998]:
I asked some questions about what was likely to happen in the next (now
CURRENT!) millennium. Duncan has now, rather boldly, given us some ideas
about what he sees as likely development in the current century.
OK, maybe a century is a better time period to talk about than a
Especially, a millennium that has only just begun today.
Duncan makes a number of assertions:
1. THE RATE OF POPULATION GROWTH IN THE 21ST CENTURY
You suggest that there will be a stabilization in the world's
population at 8 billion and that there will be an "average
zero rate of natural increase" in population.
Also I would like to hear your argument why poulation growth will
decline in "rich countries" and increase in "poor countries".
btw, *even if* that were the case, it would imply that population
would be growing overall *unless* you also see more poor countries
becoming rich countries in this century. Do you?
Also, there is the question of life expectancy. What do you think
advances in medicide and technology will do to average life
(on the other hand, advances in reproductive technologies and feminism
might increase women's choices globally and lead to declining #s
of children per family.)
(on the other hand, the environment is being constantly degraded and
this has effects on mortality rates as well.)
The more I think about it, the less I am willing to make *any*
predictions about overall population growth (and/or decline) in the
II. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE ENVIRONMENT?
You think that "global warming and other environmental problems"
will be "mitigated" over the next 20 years.
I would assert that one of the lessons that we should have learned
from the history of the XXth century is that it is very difficult to:
a) accurately predict the advancement of different technologies.
In particular, there has been a serious tendency among many
(especially scientists and engineers) to enderestimate the diffusion
period for new technologies.
b) accurately know in advance what the environmental impact of
different technologies will be.
Thus, we have been re-assured many times over that there were
certain technological problems which had been overcome (for example,
proper disposal of radioactive materials and toxic wastes). Yet,
the technologies went ahead assuming that these problems would be
solve even when they weren't. Similarly, we were told that
meltdowns and oil spills *could not* happen, but they *did*.
I think that a certain indifference to the environomental conmsequences
of technological change is a necessary consequence of the capital-form.
There is every reasoin to believe that *uncertainty* -- which is an
essential aspect of the commodity-form under capitalist conditions --
extends to technological change and consequences.
Moreover, I just don't buy (no pun intended) Marx's assertion that
mankind never sets itself problems that it is incapable of solving.
A better way to put it would be to say that humankind didn't set
itself challenged that it has shown as of this date to be incapable
of solving. WE can assume that this will continue only at our peril.
III. WHAT WILL PUT SOCIALISM ON THE AGENDA?
You assert a "Menshevik scenario" in which capital accumulation
will put socialism on the agenda.
To begin with, why is your scenario a "Menshevik scenario"?
Then: *how* will capital acculation put socialism on the agenda?
I.e. what specific consequences of capital accumulation will
put socialism on the agenda?
What rold will working-class struggles play in putting socialism
on the agenda?
IV. MARKET SOCIALISM?
You suggest that the "socialism that comes out of this has a big
role for markets".
I'd like to than Duncan for his bite. Surely, these are some of
the questions that Marxists should be asking at the beginning of
this century, aren't they?
Does anyone else have any thoughts?
In solidarity, Jerry
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