1. James Heartfield, Green Capitalism - Manufacturing scarcity in an age of abundance, www.heartfield.org, 2008, p 91, with details of how to buy posted here
2. Daniel Ben-Ami, Cowardly Capitalism - The Myth of the Global Financial Casino, Chichester, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2001
3. Daniel Ben-Ami, posted 30 August 2009
4. Benjamin Hunt, The Timid Corporation: Why business is terrified of taking risk, Chichester, Wiley, 2003, p 73
5. Ian Abley and James Heartfield, editors, Sustaining Architecture in the Anti-Machine Age, Chichester, Wiley-Academy, 2001
6. Daniel Ben-Ami, The dismal quackery of eco-economics, 22 October 2004, posted on www.spiked-online.com
7. Kenan Malik, Man, Beast and Zombie: What Science can and cannot tell us about Human Nature, London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2000
8. Austin Williams, The Enemies of Progress - The Dangers of Sustainability, Exeter, Imprint Academic, Societas, 2008
9. James Heartfield, The 'Death of the Subject' Explained, Sheffield Hallam University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-86339-966-5, with details of how to buy posted here
The regression of Green Capitalism
I have been trying to think of a graphic way to explain the materialist position of audacity, opposed as we are to the regressive tendency of Capitalism to go "green". We know that industry has historically raised productivity and has supported a growing human population. Industrial development can do so again over the twenty-first century. We further argue that more humanity is desireable. There can't be too much human intelligence in the universe in our materialist view.
That puts us firmly against the environmentally minded, who see no importance in raising productivity through investment in technology and machinery. It makes us diametrically opposed to those misanthropes who want a smaller population. Many today make the same arguments that organisations like the Optimum Population Trust have widely promoted on www.optimumpopulation.org. The OPT says that Earth may not be able to support more than half its present numbers before the end of this century, and that Britain's "long-term sustainable population level" may be lower than 30 million. Britain has a population of over 60 million today. Most of the workforce is in low paid employment. Many would-be greens, like Prince Charles, see an environmentalist virtue in the retreat of Capital from industrial development. Capitalists are not committed to advancing society through industry, as was achieved in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Green "anti-capitalists" crudely attack industry, failing to understand the material importance of raising productivity to more comfortably support more population. Many industrial leaders are busy "greening" themselves, refusing to compete through productive capital investment in labour saving machinery.
In an effort to better identify these contemporary regressives I have attempted this vulgar schematic:
This vulgar schematic may provide a further way of understanding the point that James Heartfield made in Green Capitalism - Manufacturing scarcity in an age of abundance, (1) published in 2008:
Environmentalism is the ideology of capitalism in retreat from production.
I am sure this schematic can be improved upon, and will welcome criticism and suggestions. I will also try to improve upon it myself, by better explaining and examining the categorisation of:
Editor of Fund Strategy and author of Cowardly Capitalism - The Myth of the Global Financial Casino, (2) Daniel Ben-Ami, further described these categories on www.danielbenami.com. He says the schema:
'...divides thinkers on the issue into four broad categories depending on their views on population and productivity: misanthropists (in favour of low population and low productivity), anti-machine-survivalists (greens whose main focus is low productivity), techno-hedonists (who are more comfortable with technology but wary of a rising population) and materialists (who favour progress).' (3)
Ben-Ami is working on a new book, advocating a Materialist position.
Capitalists of the past might have been Materialists, but today they are turning away from industrial development, going "green", and becoming overtly misanthropic. Techno-Hedonists have habitually rejected or ignored the relationships between technological advance and population growth. There used to be a tendency amongst less democratic Capitalists to favour the hedonistic position, while wanting to remain industrially competitive and adventurous. This is less common today, and risky investment in mechanised manufacturing is mostly avoided. But it is the anti-machine prejudice of most environmentalists that allows the retreat of Capitalism from mechanisation to appear virtuous. What else is sustainability other than the special plea of Capitalists to survive in low risk businesses without needing to raise productivity by investment in machinery? For Ben Hunt, sustainability is the refusal to progress:
'Throughout history, industrialization and economic growth - the process of using resources to produce things, the process of consumption, the use of technology to do things more efficiently, the expansion of the division of labour, the creation of wealth, and so on - have led to huge human benefits. Society has created a better world than the previous one... no longer at the mercy of natural forces.' (4)
Hunt is opposed to the distorted view underpinning sustainability, which in anticipating some shifting kind of environmental, social, and economic disaster, fearfully rejects the need to raise productivity and increase production. Sustainability is set against continuing the human history of industrialisation, that has (so far) unequally benefitted a growing global population. The cause of that inequality is left entirely unexplained as the workforce is extended in forms of "sustainable development". Further, while more people may be laboriously deployed in profitable processes, that practice is not opposed to the long established but now more vocal green prejudice that there are too many people overall.
At audacity we suggested that the twenty-first century threatened to be an "Anti-Machine Age". (5) It is also working out to be a worrying time of anti-human bitterness. Ben-Ami recognised the misanthropic character of environmentalism in his essay The dismal quackery of eco-economics. He says '... environmentalism can be seen as a counterattack against a key premise of the Enlightenment: that a central part of progress consists of increasing human control over nature. Instead, environmentalists argue that humans should accept their place as a mere subsidiary of the natural world.' (6) Ben-Ami credits Kenan Malik and his Man, Beast and Zombie of 2000 for criticising the contemporary threat of popular green anti-humanism. (7) With Caspar Hewett developing that critique in depth and detail on the excellent website www.thegreatdebate.org.uk.
In 2008 Austin Williams identified eight Enemies of Progress, and also included Misanthropists among their number. (8) It will be interesting to see how his categorisation relates to the simpler schema presented here, concerned with productivity and population.
This schema may be too vulgar, but it may help. History is being made in novel ways that must be understood and explained. In the last decades of the twentieth century, and in the first decade of this one, there has been a retreat from subjectivity in the defeated political alternatives of left and right. Environmentalism has occupied and deepened that void.
The subjectivity of employees and of employers, of the population and of government, has never been so weak as it is now. At every level of society, in public and private life, there is a loss of nerve, and people try to evade accountability and responsibility. (9) As the end of the first decade of our new century approaches it appears that Capitalism is sustained by extending the size of the workforce without raising industrial productivity. A general lack of material progress is the consequence, and the vast majority accept it.
That is not a crisis for Capitalism.
Failing to raise industrial productivity, and even making daily life more laborious for more people, is a way for that social system to survive.
Ian Abley 27.08.2009, updated 01.09.2009
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