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What’s the problem?

“Capitalism is itself a kind of social technology, one capable of organizing and managing a massive and complex division of labor without concentrating power over the system at any one point. But it is a technology that is much better suited to some tasks than others. When maximizing the output of commodities with the least input of human labor is posed as society’s main problem, capitalism’s defenders can point to it as an historically unsurpassed technology for this purpose.

“If, however, the main problem is to maintain the ability of the Earth to support an advanced civilization, and to ensure that the bounty of that civilization is shared out equitably, then the situation looks quite different. Since the system responds only to price signals, internalizing the externalities of ecological degradation entails an unceasing campaign of enclosures and commodification, in which  every aspect of the natural world must be parceled up into pieces of private property, from carbon credits to fishing rights. And this same reliance on prices ensures that legitimacy of a person’s desires will always be equated with the money at their disposal, and the machine will reproduce a world that caters to the whims of rich countries and rich people. This is ever more of a problem when wage work is still the normal way of making a living, and yet less and less labor is actually required in production.” – Peter Frase, “Sowing Scarcity”

Published inEconomicsPolitics & Law

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