Is Capitalism Sustainable?: Political Economy and the Politics of Ecology

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9780898625943: Is Capitalism Sustainable?: Political Economy and the Politics of Ecology

With the collapse of Soviet hegemony and Eastern bloc communism, the ascendancy of the image of the good society -- achieved under capitalism -- appears unassailable. But is it? Under market economies around the world, contemporary environmental problems are creating a major economic crisis of supply, putting into serious question the legitimacy of the capitalist system. This volume probes the many facets of capitalism's ecological contradictions and presents critical discussions of the politics of ecology under a free-market economy. Offering cogent analyses of the ways capitalism and liberal politics themselves are responding to this crisis, the book also presents the groundwork for meaningful social resistance to capitalist exploitatio«MDNM»ns.

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About the Author:

Martin O'Connor, a Lecturer in Economics at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, specializes in the fields of environment, development, and social sciences epistemology. He holds research degrees in physics, sociology, development/philosophy, and economics.

Review:

"...the book is useful for bringing together diverse perspectives on the limits of capitalist development. In particular, contributors help to push the mainstream debate beyond clichéd dichotomies, e.g. between 'environment vs. development,' or between 'markets vs. regulation,' by analyzing their specifically capitalist forms...These essays provide a valuable entry point for theorizing 'sustainability' as an internal contradiction of capitalism." --Les Levidow in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism

"...a welcome addition to the literature of the political economy of ecology...Is Capitalism Sustainable? makes a valuable contribution not only to the literature on ecology, but to the literature on socialism as well...There is no essay in Is Capitalism Sustainable? that is not worthwhile...With Is Capitalism Sustainable? the ecology movement now has a universalizing reader that strikes directly at the core of our concerns, and does so in a manner that enables us to touch the center of that core. Is Capitalism Sustainable? belongs in the library of every ecologically-concerned person." --George Fish in Indianapolis Peace and Justice

"At a time when the environmentalist language of 'sustainable development' has been hijacked by corporate demands for sustainable profits, the essays in this collection question whether capitalism itself is sustainable given its intrinsic degradation of the environment and the very physical and biological conditions necessary for human development. The approaches in this book range across ecofeminism and environmental marxism, but all of the authors are skeptical whether the ecological contradictions of capitalism and capitalist patriarchy can be resolved within an explicitly capitalist framework. At times romantic and utopian, at other times apocalyptic or sternly pragmatic, these essays (mostly reprinted from the first five years of the journal Capitalism, Nature, Socialism) document the emergence of simultaneously environmental and economic crises at the heart of capitalism. They point to the conclusion that we live in a socially produced nature that is nonetheless beyond human control. This book provides an excellent survey of the state of the art in ecological socialist politics; if it is deeply pessimistic about the current environmental predicament, its optimism springs from the possibility, indeed necessity, of a political movement for radical change--a movement that is simultaneously marxist, feminist and environmentalist. Taken together, these essays represent a concerted effort to grapple with vital society/environmental questions that are dealt with nowhere else." --Neil Smith, Ph.D., Geographer, Rutgers University

"This book punctures the delusion that economic growth can be without cost, for present and future generations and for the planet itself. It draws upon radical green, feminist and grassroots movements to expose the destructive legacy of European economic and political systems that have treated natural resources, women's domestic labour, and subsistence production as expendable externalities. It shows how the triumph of a global free market capitalism has exposed the fragility of liberal political systems as they are overrun by transnational interests and burgeoning inequalities and injustices.

"In the face of such a powerful transglobal system, there is an urgent need to rethink and reinvigorate the radical Left critique of capitalism. This book makes a substantial contribution to that project. It draws on ecoMarxist, ecosocialist, and ecofeminist movements and indigenous peoples to mount a fundamental challenge to capitalism and the possibility of its sustainability ecologically or politically...It is important that these issues are debated widely as there is very little time. The crisis is already very real for the majority of people on this planet, we need to have theoretical and practical solutions to meet it." --Mary Mellor, B.Sc., Ph.D., University of Northumbria at Newcastle, author of Breaking the Boundaries

"The suspicion grows that life itself, let alone capitalism, may not be sustainable. If that is to become more than a gnawing worry, at least two other ideas must become firmly implanted and acted upon: 1) the always dynamic interaction between society and nature has become a vortex threatening to destroy both; and, 2) those who have dedicated themselves to altering social processes to meet human needs and possibilities and those who fight to preserve and protect nature must see that one cannot be achieved without the other. That was a truth more than a century ago; it has reached and passed crisis proportions in our time. Of the several implications flowing from that truth and our crisis, one is that our understanding of its nature cannot be casual, let alone slipshod: it must take shape within an analytical framework. Is Capitalism Sustainable? is, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive analytical effort to make all the relevant connections--and thus, in facilitating the necessary understanding, also to facilitate the possibilities of an appropriate politics. The essays are not the sort to be read over a weekend at the beach; like the desperately-needed political tasks they point to, this book demands a serious effort." --Douglas F. Dowd, Ph.D., Professorial Lecturer in Economics, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy

"The economy is not an autonomous, closed, and self-subsistent sphere of life. It co-evolves with other spheres and is profoundly influenced by forces and factors of power, class, gender, and so on, including the economic roles of government, and profoundly influences both these other spheres and the environment of all life. Mainstream economics reaches unique determinate optimal equilibrium solutions only because it excludes the operation of variables which would prevent reaching such conclusions. This admirable collection addresses the limits of traditional economics as they pertain to the aforementioned factors and, especially, to the future of liberal democratic capitalism and the environmental/ecological conditions of life. The pursuit of status emulation and national security, as well as environmental protection, for example, will appear quite different to readers after completing this book. The social production of individual medical and ecological problems is the crux of story--as is the deployment of rhetoric in the justification of both governmental and private policies and pursuits which, individually and collectively, are quite dangerous." --Warren J. Samuels, Ph.D., Michigan State University

"Is Capitalism Sustainable? combines the writings of the most critical minds from around the world focusing on the interplay between ecology, capitalism, and democracy. The arguments in the early chapters are brassy and cacophonous, yet through them runs a current theme of how capitalism is adapting to the challenge of sustainable development, ever deceiving us by shifting the ways in which it exploits people, communities, and nature. Perhaps the contradiction of how capitalism must exploit its own means of production will bring it down before nature and human nature are transformed beyond recognition, but these chapters neither hold out hope nor empower and obligate the reader to act. The authors of the latter chapters, however, argue that a new discursive democracy is beginning to challenge capitalism's legitimacy, questioning the ways it abuses liberal democracy, science, and the administrative state to reconfigure its exploitive relations. They also present some evidence that this new process is proving robust and may challenge capitalism directly. And so there is hope, not for sustaining capitalism, but for sustaining people and nature." --Richard B. Norgaard, Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, author of Development Betrayed: The End of Progress and a Coevolutionary Revisioning of the Future

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