[OPE-L:7225] Re: Marx on solving human problems

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon May 20 2002 - 07:41:42 EDT

Re Hans's [72l6]:

> 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.

I have no problem with the above.  

Re "limited resources":
I think  that many Marxists have resisted the idea of
"limited resources" on this planet.  The resistance to that is
probably based on Marx's critique of Malthus which puts
forward the proposition that Malthusian theory underestimates
the rate and implications of technological change  in its formula
that the growth of productivity in agriculture grows at a
arithmetic rate (and the other part of the formula that population 
grows at a geometric rate is false as well.)  When that 
critique has been applied to the current issue,  many Marxists 
have just assumed that future technological change will make
the solutions to limited resources possible.  As part of  a
critique of some overly dire Green projections,  this observation
has _some_ validity.  That is, some environmentalists may 
not fully take into consideration the possibility of technological
change  making possible the more efficient use of existing 
resources and the expansion of resources.  For instance, 
with  hydroelectric and wind electrical generation,  
there are not the same limits as there are on oil and coal.
Or, consider all of the unused potential of solar energy. In
addition, it is important to recall that technological change is
determined by capital and the state where the capitalist mode
of production dominates and the unlimited drive for surplus value 
determines _what type_ of technologies are developed rather
than other more "environmentally friendly" criteria determining
what and how commodities are produced. Despite (or because)
of the above many Marxists have not recognized the enormous
implications of non-renewable resources.  Until such time -- if
ever -- that we are able to benefit from the resources on other
planets and solar systems (which itself is a _very_ scary thought
in terms of how the resources of other worlds could be depleted),
we have to recognize what the Greens take to be (and is) a 
scientific fact: namely, that there are limited non-renewable
resources.  While it is true that environmentalists sometimes
tend to underestimate the quantity of those resources that remain
on the planet (e.g. the amount of oil reserves) and overestimate the 
pace of   the depletion of those non-renewable resources, it is 
nonetheless true that there *are* non-renewable resources.  And 
when we consider that the expansion of capital has proceeded with 
indifference to the fact that there are non-renewable resources 
(unless and until it is presented with the _fact_ of non-renewable
resources as a  'external' limit to production) and that we can not
depend on the capitalist state to take action (note, e.g. the US
government's role in sabotaging international environmental
agreements on acid rain,  global warming, etc..), this physical
limit is tied to a social limit.   Here I am not only thinking about 
the implications of depleting the supplies of oil  (e.g. in terms
of oil-derivatives like plastics, rubber, many synthetic fibers, etc.)
and coal (e.g. in terms of iron and steel), but of other 'non-
renewable' resources as well.   One could consider, e.g. a 
rain forest and the millions of species that live in that 
biosphere to be a *self-renewing resources*  (although,
it like all life is dependent on 'outside' forces, e.g. rainfall
and sunlight), but once destroyed then it  *can't*  be renewed.
Like Humpty-Dumpty a rain forest and extinct species can't
be put back together again.  And no amount of technological
change in the future (except in this case possibly developments in 
genetic research)  can reverse history.  It is also the case that
some future technological developments (e.g. cures for different
diseases) may be foregone when a rain forest and the species 
endemic to that forest dies and becomes extinct.  We just don't
know, do we?  Indeed, we have no knowledge of the exact
extent to which environmental destruction has impacted human
life today or in the future.  Even capital and the state (and 
scientists and environmentalists) don't know that extent. Thus,
when you write that there are *millions of parameters and 
trade-offs*  you may be *under*estimating that quantity.

In solidarity, Jerry

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