Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Harmony is impossible with capitalism

Brilliant article by the great Fred Magdoff in Monthly Review. (Thanks Safia who always sends fabulous links)

"Let me begin by making clear that I am not a philosopher nor am I well versed in Chinese cultural history. My background is in agriculture, specifically soil fertility and health, from which I have branched out into areas of ecology and ecological approaches to agriculture and society.
With that background in mind, when I consider the concept of harmony in the context of humans, their societies, and the environment I have a particular understanding of the concept. It refers to all people living together peacefully without exploitation of one person by another, each able to reach his or her full human potential, in a society in which everyone has their basic material and nonmaterial needs satisfied, feels secure, safe, happy, and fulfilled as human beings. In addition, the concept also implies harmony between people, the environment, and the other species we share the planet with. People need fully to understand, and act in such ways that indicate, that they are embedded in nature and dependent upon it—not just to obtain natural resources needed for human life, but also that their lives are made richer and protected by biodiversity and the smooth and efficient functioning of the many cycles of nature such as the water and nutrient cycles.
There is an overriding issue when considering harmony as I have briefly described it. Harmony in the world—among its people and between humans and the rest of the ecosystems—is not possible in the context of capitalism. Capitalism, a system that has been in existence for some 500 years (merchant capitalism for approximately 250 years and industrial capitalism for about 250 years)—a relatively short time in the 150,000 year history of anatomically modern humans—has shown that it fosters interpersonal relations and metabolic interactions with the earth that are detrimental to achieving a harmonious existence. This is a result of capitalism’s basic characteristics and the relationships it creates as it normally functions. The purpose of capitalism is not to satisfy human needs and preserve the environment. There is only one purpose and driving force—ultimately responsible for both its dynamic periods and its crises and long periods of slow growth (stagnation)—and that is the accumulation of capital without end. The capitalist system has a number of basic characteristics and also fosters specific human characteristics and relationships."

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