Gerald, when I said "external contradiction" I was not referring to a general rift between humans and nature -- I agree with you that there is none -- but I meant that it is a contradiction that is external for capital. Here are some examples: The falling rate of profit is the prototype example of an internal contradiction for capital, because it is a contradiction between the goals of capital, profits, and the means which capital itself developed to reach this goal, rising productivity, which cannot be had without rising organic composition of capital. The limited length of the work day started out as an external contradiction: here capital's search for profits encountered barriers which were not of its own making. However capital could take it on board and work around it: once the length of the working day was fixed, this was not the end for the expansion of surplus-value and profits, but they could be increased by intensification of labor and by shortening necessary labor (relative surplus-value). The limited productivity of the labor process was another contradiction which started out as an external contradiction: at the beginning the capitalists applied the traditional labor processes which were developed in pre-capitalist times. But since they, in order to make enough surplus-value, employed many laborers side by side, the capitalists unwittingly created the preconditions for cooperative labor processes. In this way capital created the "specifically capitalist mode of production" or "real subsumption of the labor process to capital." The production process became something internal to the capital relations, shaped by capital, and shaped in capital's image. The limited size and ultimately declining growth rate of the exploitable population was another external barrier to capital. Again, capital could internalize this barrier by replacing workers by machines and by creating a surplus-population. I guess in the light of this I must explain why can the limitation of the resources of our planet not be internalized, like for instance the limited length of the working-day? I would argue along two lines: (1) when capital tries to lengthen the working day, it pinches the working class and the working class fights back, they have the power and the political institutions to fight back. Rain forests and the ozone layer of the antarctic ice shield cannot fight back in the same way. (2) In the working day there was one parameter that had to be fixed and defended against capital's expansionary drive: the number of hours workers were required to work. Regarding the ecological limits there are millions of parameters and tradeoffs. Even if the political power were there to regulate all this, whatever regulation you impose, there would always be new ways to abuse nature which are not covered by existing regulations. The simple one-dimensional expansionary drive of capital cannot be reconciled with our ecological limits. Hans G. Ehrbar.
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