Monday, November 24, 2008
Yes, no surprise, at least not for me but the list of big corporations and also countries negotiating deals to avoid technical bankrupticy gorws and grows: as expected even before the financial crisis unfolded, Citigroup is being saved from total disaster by state intervention (and Citi is a widely known economical actor) and the something smilar is happening with an increased number of European states: not just Serbia and Ukraine but also EU members like Hungary and Latvia, which are negotiating with the FMI to avoid simple but brutal bankrupticy.
And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sorry to be a doomsayer but the situation is dire: the limits of Capitalist expansion are clashing with our very noses and it hurts. And in a hyper-globalized world it's virtually impossible to ride the storm in separate "national" vessels, yet there are no consistent alternative, much less global, projects to save the situation. Many people has not yet realized, has not have the time nor the vital experience to do it, how catastrophic is the current situation. Forget about the happy forecasts that claim that it will be all solved for 2010... we can be decades like that, specially if we do not adress the real issues, if we do not dare to go to the very root of the problem. We might even just go extinct.
The real problem is that Capitalism only consider valuable that which is not naturally aboundant, that which is not for free. So it tends to destroy free (not accountable) resources, such as Nature, and replace them for those that can be capitalized, accumulated, exploited. The unvaluable tropical jungle, for example, is only worth money once felled and planted with soy or palm oil, the essential ocean wildlife is only valued in the context of Capitalism when it's canned or transformed in expensve sushi. The more scarce, the better for Capital. That is the real problem.
Other aspect of the same roblem is consumerism. Again it is Capitalism "who" needs people consuming more and more, often totally useless stuff. The more people demand, the higher the benefits... for shareholders and CEOs. This creates really weird demand of enarly anything from nearly anywhere around the planet and extremely high ecological costs. The Chilean shrimps may be cheap in monetary terms... but the hidden costs go to Nature.
The Ecological limits are the external limits of Capitalism. But it also has internal limits (classical Marxist limits). This is the mainly the fact that, while Capitalism needs ever-increasing demand, it also needs ever-diminishing costs, and most of those costs are salaries. When salaries are reduced, demand suffers and therefore the benefits. As Capitalist companies do not act (could not) act together, as they always look only for their own short-sighted needs and benefits, thay are always loking for more demand and at the same time restricting it in form of lower real salaries. This is hapening right now: it's the classical structural crisis of Capital. In the past it was solved by even greater expansion, by making Nature, and often also subservient peoples, to pay the costs for it. But right now that is not viable anymore... Nature is just saying "enough!" loud and clear - and colonialism is largely over anyhow. There's nowhere else to expand on Earth and there's nowhere to go either outside Earth.
We are right now being faced with our expansion limits and have to face them. It won't be easy, specially used to the mentality of sort of perpeual "growth", at the expense of Nature and exploited peoples. We may not even make it at all (I'm not very optimistic really: you look around and see no or very few and limited projects of hope right now, a painful inertia dominates the scenary at the moment) but we can't but try.
And that try must be now something really different. A whole era is over but the new one is yet to be invented.