Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism

"Caging Humanity" by Don Davis

“Caging Humanity” by Don Davis

Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I would like to use this article as a continuation of my previous article, Reality? What Reality?

The subject however would be what differentiates an organisation that is moving towards a post-capitalist discourse, such as EOS, with organisations based around anti-capitalist views, to which we can count everything from Marxism-Leninism to the Alt-Globalization Movement and #Occupy.

Or put more eloquent: What is the difference between an outlook based on science and one rooted in emotional resentment.

What do we mean by Capitalism?

Capitalism, like all words that evoke emotions, has as many definitions as there are proponents or discontents. These definitions are not singular ideas framed around the concept, but are drawn from competing cosmologies which often are mutually hostile.

To take two extremes, we can look at the Market Libertarian position vs the Marxist definition.

The Market Libertarian definition, to which we can also count the Objectivist definition, is that capitalism is productive human action, free individuals that agree on whether they want to buy or sell products and services on a free market. Ideally, all markets should be free and unregulated, and this would produce – per the theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo – the highest possible level of human well-being. Capitalism in short is individuals making free decisions. All cases of repression and poverty do not stem from inherent flaws in the market, but either from individual weakness (something which proponents of this worldview tend to be quiet about since that position would alienate potential followers), or (more usually) from regulations of the market.

The Marxist definition is that capitalism is a specific system of production, based around a hierarchical concentration of wealth and power. This system has succeeded similar systems in the past, such as Slavery and Feudalism. What separates Capitalism from Feudalism is that while Feudalism is centered around Land, Capitalism is centered around Capital – the concentration of possessions. The Capitalists are providing capital to start up companies, and strive to pay as little money as possible to the Labourers, who are those who are producing the actual value (see the Labour Theory of Value). Thus, the profit of the owner(s) represent (according to Marx) a theft of the productive potential of the labour force.

Capitalism will eventually, according to Marx and Engels, have so many contradictions that it will lead to an inevitable worker’s revolution and a system based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will develop into a classless society where all the means of production are owned collectively by the people.

It says itself that two so wildly divergent cosmologies would appear as monstrous before one another.

The Cosmology of the EOS

What is Capitalism, according to the EOS?

It is a form of socio-economic system built on the intrinsic need for exponential growth.

The goal is to maximise profits for capital owners, and is made possible by fractional reserve banking (sorry Austrians), which allows credit for investments and production that can grow the size of the economy. This leads to increased standards of living for most people, even though those who already have the most access to capital are those who benefit the most.

The problems with this system is that it relies on maximising exponential growth in a mostly closed economy, the planet Earth. This will eventually exhaust the planet’s ecology, unless the system invents ways to create abundance (which ironically also would make Capitalism obsolete). However, given how stark the situation currently looks, with the energy crisis, climate change, soil depletion, freshwater depletion and a mass extinction looming on the horizon, our best hope is to actively pursue ways to move away from exponential growth.

Why Post-capitalism is inevitable

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Everything is transitionary, and even if society today does not develop much in a year, you can safely be sure that society has changed dramatically during your life-time in comparison to how it looked when you were born, no matter what decade on the 20th or 21st centuries you were born in.

Moreover, humanity has existed as a species for 200.000 years. Agriculture was invented 12.000 years ago, and industrialism and modern capitalism co-evolved a little bit over 200 years ago, which is 0,1% of the course of the entire human history on Earth. To claim that Capitalism is a universal truth much like gravity and never will be replaced by another system is rather an emotional than a fact-based statement.

In fact, what we can say for certain is that Capitalism will be replaced within the next two centuries, and that there are three possible scenarios for how it can evolve into something else.

What is Post-capitalism?

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Post-capitalism is not a vague concept like Communism. In fact, it is even simpler.

Post-capitalism is whatever system of production and distribution that succeeds Capitalism. It is not intrinsically better than Capitalism, nor intrinsically worse. It is simply put a society which do not longer fulfill the criterion for Capitalism, namely exponential growth, either because it has found other ways to generate wealth and well-being, or because it has exhausted itself to the point that only survivalism is an option.

Since we – as a planetary organism – have followed the general trajectory of Limits to Growth, we can be sure that a lot of us would experience Post-capitalism firsthand during our lifetimes, which may – if we fail to take action – be an experience we would like to avoid.

There are three alternatives for the future, I would line them up with the least likely first, and then proceeding down to two feasible alternatives.

transhuman

I. Fusion power, asteroid mining and space colonisation solves all our problems, thanks to American and Chinese governments and mega-corporations. This leads to such an abundance that Capitalism is gradually replaced with Post-capitalism, either through institution of basic income and cooperation from progressive elites, or through a struggle from the masses to achieve that future. Eventually, this will lead to a post-monetary society.

Unlikely, not because we lack the capability to initiate those changes, but because the inherent unsustainability of the current system is so large, and these new techs are so underdeveloped that we would probably reach a collapse before they are profitable. When that happens, resources will be moved towards security rather than innovation, and we would end up in…

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II. A global ecological collapse, that will lead to a global socio-economic collapse and a collapse of living standards across the planet. This will lead to such a collapse that there will be a massive loss of complexity in society, as more people will have to focus on survival rather than producing economic, cultural, institutional or scientific value. In short, there will be a new dark age.

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III. A conscious transition towards a post-growth society. This would mean that we on all levels, as human beings, strive to establish sustainable relationships with our surroundings. On the micro-level, it could mean urban farming, recycling, seasteding and rewilding. These acts would however not be enough to counter the second scenario if we do not reverse monocultures, the dependency on fossil fuels and the institutions which exist today which are built upon the idea of limitless exponential growth. Eventually and if successful, these grassroot networks of conscious individuals and groups can form a global civilization of human creativity, which can achieve the first scenario.

So… when we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability are evaluating the future, we can see three different types of Post-capitalism take hold. What is important for us is not the labels of a socio-economic system, but that the system in question fulfills the criteria of being able to create and distribute wealth while not destroying the foundations of that wealth, our beautiful planet.

Post-capitalism vs Anti-capitalism

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While protests and direct action oftentimes are necessary in order to create the foundations for political change, we cannot let primitive emotional responses take over our approach. Anti-capitalism is per definition such a primitive emotional response, and oftentimes built not only on noble emotions such as compassion and solidarity with disenfranchised groups in society, but also on ressentiment and puritan moralism.

Ressentiment and puritan moralism are gateways to absolutism and totalitarianism, and are unacceptable deviations for a movement such as the EOS.

Of course, it is true as anti-capitalists claim that Capitalism in itself bears a responsibility for the situation we are in, as the current ecological crisis wouldn’t exist if not for the exponential growth system. But it is also true, as pro-capitalists say, that without Capitalism and Industrialism, we would live in feudal societies with very low standard of life and probably worse social conditions.

However, we don’t owe Capitalism to let it continue to exist only because it allowed an unprecedented standard of life in the western world during the 20th century.

Anti-capitalist attitudes are unproductive for a movement like the EOS, since we cannot preoccupy ourselves with real or perceived injustices. Instead we must move on to discussing how the transition to the unavoidable post-capitalistic society should work out, and how we all humans would want that society to provide for, and what it can provide for.

Ultimately, a large role will have to be played by progressive-minded capitalists who have realised that we are moving towards an abyss. These brave individuals, who have realised that we are moving towards an ecological collapse, are a huge asset for the future, because their influence can be used to a great extent to assist with the transition.

Summary

Post-capitalism is inevitable, but it is up to us all to steer the process in such a manner that we don’t end up in a situation that no one in their right mind would want.

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Reality? What reality?

Cosmos

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Ultimately, there are two constants in the existence of sapient life: The self and the exterior of the self. We can refer to “the self” as “the mind”, while everything exterior of the self (from unconscious bodily functions to far away galaxies) can be referred to as “reality”.

Our body interconnects our minds with reality, through sensory stimulus and the need for nutrition. However, we are not born (or arguably able) to understand what reality is. It can have something to do with us being evolved not for understanding the mysteries of the Cosmos, but rather for surviving and procreating on the African plains.

Anyway, here we are, operating a civilization that we ultimately are ill-equipped to understand by virtue of our biology, and trying to make sense of the complex world we are finding ourselves in.

There are several tools for understanding reality, but the two most utilised have been Mythos and Logos.

Mythos is a way of ascertaining reality by forming a comprehensive world-view which often is normative, meaning that it is focused on mending the gap between the material and moral realities, and to establish a meaning with life. We won’t really focus on Mythos for this article, but preoccupy ourselves with various ways of understanding Logos, and of the arguably damaging effects of neo-subjectivist ideas.

I am talking, to an extent, about the discourse of the conflict between hermeneutics and positivism, and about what separates The Earth Organisation for Sustainability from The Venus Project and many of the “RBE Organisations” which have plopped up during the last few years.

What is science?

Most human beings are to an extent employing science when they determine which way is the best way. It can be everything from cooking, building treehouses and gardening, to arranging furniture and making music together with your friends. In short, science is not in itself complicated.

Science is to make judgements out of experience and test results, rather than from opinions, biases or authority, and then be open for that new and improved information can be available, rather than to prefer the old information.

Of course, it should be stated that scientific fields are not testing randomly, but are building on what previous generations have made and are employing mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering principles and various research methods, as well as peer reviews and standardised reporting techniques to establish a transparent and secure process for attaining new knowledge and be able to apply it within various areas.

The foundation

For science to work, there must be several conditions met. Experiments must be falsifiable, meaning that they must be possible to conduct and repeat under controlled conditions, and that they must be open for criticism based on science. Moreover, the experiments must be possible to repeat by researchers who have vastly different biases, and yet yield the same results. Also, the process must be open for examinations by other experts in the same field.

Moreover, if there are several possible conflicting interpretations for events, then the usual manner in which how to proceed has been to first look at the most simple explanations, rather than to move to wildly divergent scenarios.

Positivism

The traditional way of studying natural sciences (or “hard science”) has been to follow this process and learn new experiences from it. Positivism, as the underlying “scientistic” norm has been referred to, have several weaknesses, which have been addressed both amongst adherents to positivism and to critics, usually from the New Left academic environment, who formulated different types of scientific methodologies (one of which is Hermeneutics, which is very questionable itself as a methodology).

What I however want to criticise with the RBE movements is not Hermeneutics, since the RBE movements seem to originate from a idiosyncratic fusion of youth disillusionment, New Age, Conspiracism and The Venus Project rather than from New Left Academia.

The problems with the RBE Cosmology

Free_Energy_Orgones

I would argue that the biggest enemy currently of the RBE movement is the RBE movement itself, or rather the over-enthusiastic followers of RBE concepts, who seem to understand science as a substitute for religion. Let me explain my position with this illustrative image from above.

While I do not doubt that most RBE followers genuinely want to help the world, there is a problem which I have spotted amongst many vocal RBE followers, and that is their ignorance of the scientific method, as well as (even more sadly) a disinterest in the scientific process.

I have seen RBE followers share Wilhelm Reich, Nassim Haramein, Drunvalo Melchizedek, David Icke and other conspiracy theorists uncritically, and whenever such posts are erased from the EOS Facebook group, we are accused of censoring information and of being authoritarian. I have seen RBE followers being drawn into anarcho-primitivist groups, new age groups and antisemitic conspiracy groups.

It can almost seem like when the foundations of reality are changed, everything passes, and people stop using their critical faculties to disseminate information.

But this does not only pass for false information. It is troubling as well when it passes for true information or information that has a scientific basis.

I would be very worried if tomorrow EOS would get 200 new followers, who all would profess a nearly religious faith in the teachings of our movement, and the current EOS director (no offence, Dr. Wallace 😉 ). Equally troubling it is when people profess blind faith in Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking or any other contemporary figure within mainstream science.

To some extent, a lot of people have shown a predisposition for a need to believe in something.

Anyway, often times, we have heard that the reason that we do not work together with some specific other RBE associations (for example, The Venus Project), is that we are petty and have “big egos”. The people framing such criticisms seem to either be surprised by our reply or ignore it, but our reply is the following:

We cannot know whether or not a RBE is working before testing out the principles locally.”

Jacque Fresco himself is evidently a positivist, at least to the point where he affirms that the scientific method is the foundation for TVP. However, there are several problems with TVP, firstly that Jacque has achieved a guru-like status within the organisation, and secondly that there are no other scientists or engineers apart from Jacque within TVP, and also that most of the followers of TVP seem to have this nearly religious belief that a RBE certainly will solve every problem with everything imaginable, and that all issues of scarcity will be removed permanently (Limits of Growth beg to differ).

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm, but beware that enthusiasm is always based on a bias. One of the reasons why we in the EOS are trying to break our own design by various simulations and tests, is that the design itself is of less importance than whether or not it can contribute positively to the future of the planet and to sustainability. We need to learn to distance ourselves from our emotional entanglements and behave like scientists.

We need to understand the scientific process.

There have been many problems with science, including elitism, dependency on multinational corporations, dependency on governments, biases connected to prejudices about social groups and a disturbing homogenity of the composition of the science corps. These issues are not addressed by throwing out mainstream science and replacing it with a wild subjectivism where people “put their faith” in various gurus.

These issues can only be addressed by teaching people the foundations of the scientific method from an early age, and learn children how to apply science themselves.

The flaws of democracy are the flaws of the market system

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

The excellent Blog Borderstone did recently outline a series of problems with democracy, related to aspects of voter behaviour and how political parties exploit that behaviour. They also suggested a few alterations to the democratic system, which would mean a function similar to the “consumer ombudsman”/”consumer authority” that would limit the amounts of “bad advertising” political parties are engaging in. I would argue that while I agree with Borderstone that there are major problems with voter behaviour, any set of solutions should really focus primarily on the voters, rather than on the political parties.

What comes first?

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This really says it all.

Democratic Elections are really just another form of a market system. The goal for any political party, or political candidate for that matter, is to scramble enough votes to be able to exert policies (and on the flopside, try to maximise the social status and the income of the participants, if we are subscribing to a more misantropic view of humanity) which benefit the voters.

To be able to achieve this, political parties should be able to reach enough voters to be able to make a difference. This means that the goal is to grab the attention of the voters. Politics is a complex subject, but to be able to gain attention, any political party must be able to generalise and comprime information in such a manner that they can attract just the amount of voters they need to be able to exert influence.

One of the great revolutions of the 20th century, was the birth of mass media and the mass entertainment industry. A typical human being in a developed economy receives as much new information daily as a farmer in the 18th century received during an entire year. While it can be argued that most of this new information is consisting of junk, it is still grabbing the attention of the individual and creates intellectual processing.

i_can_has_cheezburger_1_Thus, there is an ongoing evolutionary struggle within the sphere of memetics, to be able to occupy human minds with information. Billboards, signs, news headlines, adverts, TV channels and Internet are the battlefields of this struggle, which is about control of human psychology.

Just like in nature, evolution strives after achieving the greatest possible outcomes with the necessary, optimal means. That is for example why humans and most animals have just two eyes, because two eyes are optimal for being able to determine where is up and where is down. Three eyes could achieve the same thing, but the third eye would be superfluous (unless you’re into New Age).

Regarding mass media, which is reminding of democratic politics in more than one way, newspapers for example need to attract buyers. This has led to an increasing emphasis on things which engage people – namely celebrities and sport – which are things that humans are biologically hardwired to understand.

We might be irritated about all these “news” about which celebrities have divorced, about scandals on Ex on the beach and “infotainment” programs such as Deadliest Warrior, but ultimately it is we as a collective that are responsible for programs such as Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Biggest Loser. Certainly, many people are preferring shows like Cosmos and Vetenskapens värld, but since things like reality shows and infotainment is existing, it shows that there is a popular demand for things like that – since that is what people want.

Why do people like to consume crap?

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Because it’s cheap.

And no, when it comes to dumbed-down information (which often is flawed and appealing to emotions), it is not a question of money. Rather, it is a question of time and mental capacity. It is easier for the brain to just accept the information that gets filtered through, than to analyse it from all viewpoints and to come to a conclusion based on a combination of reason and values.

Also, it is cheap in the terms of not wanting to be proven wrong. Often, successful parties operating in a democratic system are ascribing to certain cultural or social identities with conflicting interests (I will return to that and explain why I think an ombudsman is a bad idea later), and individuals do not want to be proven wrong. People who are on the left on the political spectrum might want all social problems to be defined as environmental constructs, while hard right-leaners might want everything to be genetic. There is also this large group of voters who have low education, low ability to learn and/or very little interest of taking information.

Those people have voting rights too (and they should have that, because if not no one would take into account their interests, especially not within the framework of a free market system).

Given that, my conclusion is that the current level of political discourse is the result of popular will.

Revisit the market analogy

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The free market does not want you to take responsibility, but neither does it care about you.

It becomes very dangerous when that kind of ideology is influencing the democratic discourse. Since the 1950’s – when consumer capitalism became established, the market has increasingly come to define not only our way of working and eating, but also our identity. To a large extent, this has led to a breakdown of civic ideals in western societies, and (what Marx warned about) the commodification of the human identity. This means that we – primarily, in all aspects – are treated foremost as receptors, consumers, and not as actors with an own will.

We should really all feel very insulted when newspapers, TV channels and political parties speak to us like if we were children. They are treating us with contempt, and their view of the public is told through the quality of their programming. And to a very large extent, I would suspect that being fed information that doesn’t challenge us, nor contribute to our intellectual development, has gradually come to reduce the quality of our ability to understand information.

When democratic elections start to work after the same principles, it becomes really dangerous, since it can make the public unable to detect hidden dangers, or be able to withstand demagoguery. It can be discussed if this process is some kind of aware progress towards a society run by international elites, since an uninformed, disinterested electorate can make it easier to enact treaties such as ACTA, TTIP and MAI. Western democracies today are really run after principles where both the dominating parties (usually a left-centre and right-centre party) are striving after the same long-term goals in economic and foreign policies, and then it is of course “good” if public participation is reduced and politics as a whole are “dumbed down”.

What is the solution then?

participative-leadership

The course that EOS sees for the future is direct-democratic within the context of voluntary confederations. However, this remains a distant goal in the future, and even if introduced, such a system would possibly have the same problems as our current systems, and might degrade further since a direct democracy in the hands of an electorate which has learnt to constantly be fooled by messages which are directed towards children rather than adults can yield some frightening results.

An ombudsman would however be a bad idea too, as well as laws limiting what politicians might send out for messages. It would lead to constant legal proceedings, where rival parties would accuse one another before court of misleading adverts and of lying, and it can serve to destabilise societies further, when polarising issues such as immigration, climate change and economic issues emerge. Also, if the state in question has a dominating party, this party would have the resources to legally persecute their opponents, thus creating a semi-democracy or an authoritarian state.

No. The best route forward is probably to encourage people to think, to create a society where more is demanded than that we should pursue our identity through consumerism. It is paramount that both children and adults learn about scientific reasoning, and about logics and especially logical fallacies. Of course, all people would not be able to fully master these processes, but if a significant amount are, and if such behaviour is promoted amongst the public (instead of the ideals presented by Jersey Shore and America’s Next Top Model), then we would be a significant amount of way ahead.

This course is a very good initiation to that world, by the way.

The Logdea Biodome, event on Kungsgatan 101, Café Planet, the 11th of October

Café PlanetHow should we produce our food in the future, and after what principles?

Seeking perhaps an answer to this question, Alexander Bascom (Green Free Will) and Enrique Lescure (the EOS), have embarked on a project and a journey to construct the farm of the future – an automated organic greenhouse relying on green technologies like aquaponics and combine them with permaculture

As the biodome is realised, come and hear their story of the struggle to change the way we interact with our environment.

This event will happen in Café Planet (Kungsgatan 101), during the Survival Kit Festival, 3-5 PM Saturday the 11th of October 2014. You are all warmly welcome!

Here is the event on Facebook.