Know your enemy: How to defeat capitalism
In a capitalist society, there is always a good explanation for your poverty, your meaningless job (if you have a job), your difficulties and your general unhappiness. You are to blame. It is your failure. After all, look at other people who do succeed. If only you had worked a little harder, studied a little more, made those sacrifices.
We are told that anybody who works hard can become a success. Anyone can save up and become your own boss, a boss with employees. And there is some truth to this. Often, any one person can do these things–but we can’t conclude from this that every person can. It is a basic fallacy to conclude that because one person can do something, therefore everyone can. One person can see better in the theater if he stands, but if everyone stands no one can see better. Anyone can get the last seat on the plane, but everyone can’t. Any country can cut its costs and become more competitive, but every country cannot become more competitive by cutting costs.
“The Return of Nature” is a Resource for Scientific Radicals (Science for the People)
The Return of Nature is a genealogy of ecological thinking. The word ‘ecology’ was not in common usage until the twentieth century, leading many to consider ecological thinking a fairly recent development. However, in this impressive volume, John Bellamy Foster convincingly identifies a materialist ecological sensibility within works dating back a century prior to ecology’s popularization.
Starting with the funerals of Darwin and Marx in 1882 and 1883 respectively, the book traces how socialist thinkers in the nineteenth and early twentieth century were integral to developing an outlook that acknowledges the complex relationship between human production and the rest of nature.
Migration Beyond Capitalism
In Migration Beyond Capitalism, Hannah Cross expounds a Marxist analysis that takes seriously the importance of migration in capitalism today. Rather than base her assessment in value judgements that would force her into a ‘pro’ or ‘anti’-migration position, she draws her conclusions from an in-depth analysis of the actual economic and political function of migration. In this way, Cross’s analysis succeeds in going beyond many of the mystifications prevalent on the contemporary left.
On the one hand, a ‘post-material left’ attempts to wish away the issue by repeating the same-old platitudes of liberal multiculturalism: ‘we should be open and tolerant to different ways of life’, ‘we need migrants to do the jobs we don’t want to do’, etc. While admirable in their defence of migrants’ rights to live free of discrimination and state oppression, these leftists often take too rosy a view of migration, failing to understand the role it plays in subjugating the global labour force and depressing wages.
The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift
In the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, inspired by the German chemist Justus von Liebig, argued that capitalism’s relation to its natural environment was that of a robbery system, leading to an irreparable rift in the metabolism between humanity and nature. In the twenty-first century, these classical insights into capitalism’s degradation of the earth have become the basis of extraordinary advances in critical theory and practice associated with contemporary ecosocialism. In The Robbery of Nature, John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, working within this historical tradition, examine capitalism’s plundering of nature via commodity production, and how it has led to the current anthropogenic rift in the Earth System.
Departing from much previous scholarship, Foster and Clark adopt a materialist and dialectical approach, bridging the gap between social and environmental critiques of capitalism. The ecological crisis, they explain, extends beyond questions of traditional class struggle to a corporeal rift in the physical organization of living beings themselves, raising critical issues of social reproduction, racial capitalism, alienated speciesism, and ecological imperialism.
The classes of capitalism
Capitalist society is divided into different classes, and the relationships between those classes shape the production of wealth, the dissemination of ideas and the nature of politics.
In 1848, Marx and Engels wrote that “society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeoisie and proletariat”. By bourgeoisie they meant the capitalist class, those who made their living by owning capital, which means both factories and other equipment used in the production process, and the money used to invest in production. By proletariat they meant the modern working class—wage-earners who don’t own land or equipment, and who have to make money by selling their time to capitalists.
Between Capitalism and Community
In this book, Michael Lebowitz deepens the arguments he made in his award-winning Beyond Capital. Karl Marx, in Capital, focused on capital and the capitalist class that is its embodiment. It is the endless accumulation of capital, its causes and consequences, that are central to Marx’s analysis. In taking this approach, Marx tended to obscure not only the centrality of capital’s “immanent drive” and “constant tendency” to divide the working class but also the political economy of the working class (“social production controlled by social foresight”). In Between Capitalism and Community, Lebowitz demonstrates that capitalism contains within itself elements of a different society, one of community.