Resources for studying “Capital” with emphasis on Value theory

There are many schools of economic thought. I have listed more than twenty (at the bottom). It’s important of course to have some real understanding of these various schools. However, Marx stands alone for his work on understanding the fundamentals of how capitalism works, its inner machinations. His work was a critique of the political economy that came before him and in its fundamentals delves far deeper than the economics that has preceded him. Although the person is long dead his ideas are still very relevant and in need of an update.

It is generally acknowledged that the most difficult part of Marx is Chapter One of Capital, titled Commodities. It has taken me quite some time to get my head around it. I believe that most people would require a guide or guides to understand it. It also requires a commitment to slow, deep thinking. I’m listing here some resources I have found useful with some short notes as to which areas they cover.

Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
This was published in 1859 by Marx before he wrote Capital. So it provides a briefer overview of his argument. It is useful to compare Contribution with Capital as well as the differences between first and second editions of Capital. There is considerable redrafting and evolution in Marx’s thinking. Contribution also contains a section on Method, which is famously missing in Capital.

Marx, Karl. Capital Volume One, Chapter one: Commodities (first published in German, 1867)
There are 4 sections to Chapter One
Section 1: The Two Factors of a Commodity: Use-Value and Value (the Substance of Value and the Magnitude of Value)
Section 2. The Two-fold Character of the Labour Embodied in Commodities
Section 3. The Form of Value or Exchange-Value
Section 4. The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret thereof
This must be one of the most contested, interpreted and reinterpreted texts in the history of texts. We can’t expect to just read and understand this text. It does need to be gone over very carefully and of course a good conversation along the way helps with learning, a lot.

Fine, Ben and Alfredo Saad-Filho. Marx’s Capital (2004)
This is a relatively short (180 pages) introductory account of the central issues of Marx’s political economy and its brevity might appeal as a way to start.

Harvey, David. The Limits to Capital. (2006)
David Harvey has written lots of books including volumes devoted more closely to reading Capital. He also has a series of online videos about Volume One. This book by Harvey is the one I have been reading. He is a very good writer and interpreter overall of Marx IMO (although I am puzzled by his sometimes advocacy of a zero growth future) and provides many footnotes and references for further study.

Rubin, Isaak Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value (written circa 1928)
I have found this one extremely useful for understanding the form of value, as distinct from the magnitude of value, eg. Chapter 12. Content and Form of Value. The form of value has been missed or neglected by some interpreters.

Fine, Ben and Milonakis, Dimitris. From Political Economy to Economics: Method, the social and the historical in the evolution of economic theory (2009)
This contains some brief but very good sections explaining value theory. They are situated in a broader overview of the whole history of the economic methods of different schools, which helps to fill a gap left by Marx. It is quite an amazing feat really to compare the methodology of the major schools of economic thought in one volume.

Saad-Filho, Alfredo. The Value of Marx: Political Economy for Contemporary Capitalism.
Currently this is one of my favourite interpretations of Marx’s value theory and luckily it is online. I really like the first chapter which taught me new things about materialist dialectics and the subsequent chapters do a good job of critically explaining different interpretations of value theory including some of the more recent ones. I recommend reading the footnotes too, they are very informative.

Rosdolsky, Roman. The Making of Marx’s Capital (first published circa 1968)
Rosdolsky gained some insights into controversies about Marx’s value theory by reading work by Marx published long after his death, such as Grundrissse. Rosdolsky is not a great writer but he knows his Marx and he sets the record straight in a number of instances.

Quite a few of these resources are available on line at the Marxist Archive. Personally I find it best to buy them or print off the chapters I want to study, since the material is too dense to assimilate just by reading. My own study style is to make marginal notes and also to compile separate notes as I go along. If anyone can just read Marx and pick him up like chewing minties then good luck, i would like to meet you.

Of course all of this reading is  rather daunting. It’s a grunt. But it would be great to grow a community who understand and discuss these ideas and their application to the current economic crisis. Now then, we can’t really apply Marx’s ideas to the current economic crisis if we don’t understand them, can we?

List of Economic schools of thought:

  • mercantilism
  • physiocrats
  • classical
  • marx
  • neo classical (marginal theory of value)
  • keynesian
  • neo classical synthesis or neo keynesian or neo classical keynesian
  • welfare economics
  • new keynesian
  • post keynesian
  • chartalist
  • austrian
  • monetarist
  • chicago school aka neo liberalism
  • neo ricardo – sraffa
  • complexity theory – econophysics
  • complexity economics
  • dynamic stochastic general equilibrium
  • institutionalist or evolutionary or innovation economics
  • behavioural economics
  • public choice theory
  • rational choice theory
  • social choice theory
  • information economics
  • ecological economics
  • thermo economics
  • energy economics
  • neuro economics
  • experimental economics
  • first chicago school
  • mutualist political economy
  • game theory
  • agent based computational economics
  • AI economics
  • Dynamic economics

61 Responses to “Resources for studying “Capital” with emphasis on Value theory”

  1. 1 Arthur

    Congratulations on getting into this! Looking forward to detailed discussions.

    I still haven’t read some of the other non-Marx listed but will certainly take the recommendation to do so eventually.

    Was impressed by Harvey’s grasp of relevance of theory of rent to value theory am too prejudiced by the “zero growth” advocacy to take him seriously as I just don’t see how anyone on the wrong side of that question can have much useful to say about Marxism.

    Not sure why you are so put off by Rosodolsky’s writing style.

    I think he’s right about general misunderstanding of Marx on use value and also on usefulness of studying Grundrisse. Was much more impressed by him than by others.

    On the schools, think its well worth reading Smith and Ricardo to understand background Marx took for granted in his readers and which modern readers often attribute to Marx himself from ignorance.

    Econophysics strikes me as the most promising modern development and is my excuse for getting diverted into studying statistical mechanics.

  2. 2 Bill Kerr

    I’m currently reading Rosdolsky. I like the way he explains how value and exchange value evolves and becomes gradually consolidated as capitalism develops. In primitive society where people mainly fend for themselves exchange is practically non existent. This adds another perspective to understand value.

    In general I think he makes really good points, eg. about use value, but he over documents his case which is sometimes tedious. I’m looking forward to reading his section about Joan Robinson since I’m curious about why really smart people like her reject Marx.

    Without doubt, the study of Grundrisse, his rough notes, has given Marx a new lease of life and the fuller version was not published until 1953 (limited version in German was first published in 1939-41). Interesting people are currently writing PhDs about Marx, see for example,

  3. 3 David

    I downloaded an audiobook version of Capital Vol 1. It was from

    I found it by searching in Vuze. It is 1.05 GB and is called “Das Kapital Vol 1 English”. The volume number is “1” not “I”.

  4. 4 Panamared2017

    I am a follower of your blog, and was surprised (more like delighted) to see this post but was concerned to see you are forgetting a very important contricuter to understanding Marx. I am speaking od Moishe Postone, here is his wiki

    His book, Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory, is a way more valuable and comprehensive than David Harvey’s work.

  5. 5 Panamared2017

    *posted too early!*
    I am a follower of your blog, and was surprised (more like delighted) to see this post but was concerned to see you are forgetting a very important contributer to understanding Marx. I am speaking of Moishe Postone, here is his wiki:

    His book, Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory, is a way more valuable and comprehensive than David Harvey’s work.

    If you are still in doubt take a look at this interview:

  6. 6 Bill Kerr


    Thanks for the link to the platypus inteview with Moishe Postone, which I just read. I had heard of him through N Pepperell’s work (roughTheory) but don’t have the book you recommend. I will get it.

  7. 7 Bill Kerr

    off topic but the final section of the Moishe Postone interview will appeal to the core group of contributors at this site:

    Certain ways of interpreting the world such as, “the world would be a wonderful place if it weren’t for George Bush, or the United States,” are going to lead us nowhere, absolutely nowhere. We have to find our way to new forms of true international solidarity, which is different than anti-Americanism. We live in a moment in which the American state and the American government have become a fetish form. It’s similar to the reactionary anti-capitalists who were anti-British in the late 19th century …

  8. 8 jim sharp

    FYI & i note one important readable book missing from your pole?
    Reclaiming Marx’s “Capital”

    A Refutation of the Myth of Inconsistency
    by Andrew Kliman “In Reclaiming Marx’s ‘Capital,’ Kliman’s arguments – and it is largely a book of arguments -operate like a buzz saw clearing away the underbrush of misplaced criticisms that have kept the real Capital hidden from most
    of its potential readers. The project is much needed, and brilliantly and clearly (and for this reader, convincingly) executed. Highly recommended
    for all those who need Capital (and who doesn’t?).”
    – Bertell Ollman, Professor of Politics, New York Universit

  9. 9 Bill Kerr

    Another good reference is an essay by Diane Elson titled ,The Value Theory of Labour, contained in an unfortunately difficult to obtain book titled Value: The Representation of Labour in Capitalism (1979)

    I became interested in this essay because it was highly recommended by David Harvey


    1. The theory of value: a proof of exploitation?
    2. The theory of value: an explanation of prices?
    3. An abstract labour theory of value?
    4. Labour as the object of Marx’s theory of value
    5. A possible misconception: the social distribution of labour
    6. The indeterminateness of human labour

    1. Rationalist Concepts of Determination
    2. Determination in Marx’s theory of value: the relation between labour-time, value and exchange value
    3. The measure of value: labour-time and money
    4. The analysis of form determination: the method of historical materialism

    1. Aspects of labour: social and private, abstract and concrete
    2. The phase of analysis: from the commodity to value
    3. The phase of synthesis: from value to price
    4. The political implications of Marx’s value analysis

    Send me an email if you want the pdf: billkerr (at) gmail (dot) com.

  10. 10 steve owens

    I fear Bill that your conducting a retreat to theory. I would still like the overproduction theorists to explain where all the excess production has gone. I still can’t buy a Harley any cheaper than before the overproduction crisis hit.
    But this is just patter what I wanted to point out is this
    If this link fails the you tube is titled Hans Rosling’s 200 countries 200 years, 4 minutes

  11. 11 Bill Kerr

    hi Jim Sharp,

    Yes, Andrew Kliman’s book, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital: a refutation of the myth of inconsistency, does have a section on value theory part of which can be read here, so it should be added to the pile.

  12. 12 The Sanity Inspector

    “A permanent possibility of selfishness arises from the mere fact of having a self, and not from any accidents of education or ill-treatment. And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon.”
    — G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

  13. 13 steve owens

    Yes Sanity Inspector our innate selfishness makes any society based on principles of social justice unobtainable. Just as any society that is based on selfishness can’t operate because of our self evident patterns of co operation.

  14. 14 Arthur
  15. 15 Bill Kerr

    Andy Blunden has some original essays on Value theory,many of which are compiled in the 1998 section of his writings. Start with Theories of Value whose aim is to “trace the development of the value-form and the concept of value” since Marx. He also attempts to link our development of Knowledge to value theory (Knowledge & Value).

    He interprets value as the fundamental organising concept of capitalism and builds his intepretations around that. Since Andy Blunden is a Hegelian scholar with a deep and broad knowledge of philosophy he avoids the trap of trying to define value in a positivist sense (the temptation to come up with a clear, crisp definition of value) and instead looks at what it means in a broader sense of its impact on thought and social development. This doesn’t mean that he is right of course but his essays are invariably thought provoking.

  16. 16 Bill Kerr

    simon clarke:

    Scroll right to the bottom for his “Reading notes on Capital” (word doc, 52pp he goes through all 3 volumes). I’ve just read his notes on Ch 1 so far, 7pp. I think they are quite helpful in a number of respects:

    – difference b/w Contribution to Critique and Ch 1 of Capital detailed
    – explanation of the role of the market as a social mechanism from which value arises
    – he understands the importance of the form of value and explains it clearly
    – section 1.3 of Chapter one integrates both a logical and historical account of the complexity of the evolution of value forms and money
    – sections 1-3 of chapter one offer a technical economic argument contrasted with chapter 4 which offers sociological commentary – this has caused confusion and misrepresentation of Marx’s position
    – clear explanation of the difference b/w Ricardian interpretation and Marx’s real intention
    – alleged gaps in Marx about labour must be embedded in commodities are listed are responded to

    From the last para of his notes on Ch 1:

    “However, this `neo-Ricardian’ interpretation is firmly based on Marx’s own words. So why did Marx present his argument in the first two sections of chapter one in a form he must have known to be wrong? I think the answer is that he wanted to simplify the exposition to make it more comprehensible, developing his argument in stages. Thus the false claims on which the ‘economistic’ interpretation is based have to be seen, I think, as expository devices that probably obscure more than they clarify. This claim is given added weight by the fact that it is only in the revised version of Chapter One, that sought to simplify the chapter, that the argument is developed in this way.”

  17. 17 Bill Kerr

    One of the difficult aspects of Marx’s writing is that he changes the meanings of terms and relationships between terms like value, use value, exchange value etc. as he progresses the argument. It’s important to come to terms with this as an illustration of his dialectical method. It’s too complex and multifaceted for him to explain it in linear fashion. David Harvey (Limits to Capital, p.2) following Bert Ollman explains this as moving from window to window and taking a new look at how things relate and connect with each new viewing

    Nevertheless, I’ve been on the look out for a good glossary of terms used by Marx and have been using this one to advantage:
    Systematic Glossary by Michael Eldred and Mike Roth which is an Appendix to their book Guide to Marx’s Capital

  18. 18 jim sharp

    b.kerr: FYI
    marx & engels” a conceptual concordance”
    by gerard bekerman translated by terrell carver
    was given to me many long years ago by my marxian mentor.
    it’s the best one i’ve seen & its still available

  19. 19 Bill Kerr

    hi jim,
    Could you provide more detail of Gerard Bekerman’s book, “A Conceptual Concordance’, please. I have googled for reviews and the author too, but can’t find any real detail. How would it add to or complement the information available in Eldred and Roth’s Systematic Glossary? I have noticed some terms missing in the E&R glossary, eg. “fictitious capital”

    I am of the belief that a comprehensive, well explained glossary of terms by Marx is essential to understanding him. Is this book just a list and description of such terms or is there more to it than that? Thanks.

  20. 20 Bill Kerr

    In my reading of Capital (3 volumes) and Grundrisse I am finding David Harvey’s Limits to Capital extremely useful. Why? Because he does appear to provide a fairly accurate summary / interpretation of Marx’s writings (as far as I can tell) with numerous quotes (and Marx’s writings are so voluminous I do need someone to do that). As well as that he identifies various issues and controversies that remained unfinished or incomplete, so in that respect he brings it up to date and provides some focus for further investigations. At any rate, I’d like to put in another plug for Harvey as a helpful guide to reading Capital.

    I had also forgotten about Steve Keen’s Marx Thesis in which he challenges Marx’s theory of value. I need to read this because it is based on an understanding that use value can certainly be an economic category, Steve challenges the traditional view of Bohm-Bawerk, Hilferding, Sweezy etc. here. There is some dialogue b/w Steve Keen and Jad about this here which needs to be continued further as part of understanding value theory.

  21. 21 Bill Kerr

    A good reference on money is Marx on Money by Suzanne deBrunhoff (second hand copies available via amazon sellers).

    I will use this reference to illustrate my point again about David Harvey as a guide. Since he has been studying Capital for 40 years he has put in the hard yards of reading the related material by other authors as well as the original Marx. Hence, he is in a position to recommend related authors and as far as I can see from following up myself his recommendations are useful ones (eg. Elson on Value theory, deBrunhoff on money). Harvey uses deBrunhoff as a major source for his ch 9: Money, Credit and Finance of his book Limits to Capital

  22. 22 Bill Kerr

    Partial explanation of why you should read Contribution before or at least as well as Capital

    Simon Clarke’s notes on comparing the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy with Capital:

    The first version of Chapter One of Capital is to be found in the Critique of Political Economy (1859), whose first chapter is in many ways the best introduction to Chapter One of Capital. The discussion of the Critique differs in a number of ways from that of Capital:
    i) In the Critique Marx does not make the fundamental distinction between value and exchange-value that is made in Capital
    ii) in the Critique the argument has a much more ‘Hegelian’ flavour: the argument is entirely formulated in terms of the development of the contradiction between (exchange)-value and use-value
    iii) the logical and historical development of the argument are both present, but are separated: a logical analysis is followed by a historical one, whereas in Capital the two are more closely integrated
    iv) Marx devotes much more attention to money in the Critique (and in the Grundrisse) than he does in Capital, (the discussion of money in Capital refers the reader back to the Critique)
    v) The explanation of the theory of value in the Critique is rather different from that in Capital. In the Critique the discussion of commodity fetishism is more closely integrated into the discussion of the theory of value and it is clear that for Marx it is the ‘qualitative’ rather than the ‘quantitative’ dimension that is important: i.e. the theory of value is a theory of the way in which, through money and exchange, private labours are brought into social relation with one another. In Capital the exposition emphasises the quantitative dimension first: the theory of value as a theory of the ratio in which commodities exchange, before discussing the qualitative dimension.

    Hence, a lot of the distortion of Marx from future “marxists” and neo-ricardians arose from Marx’s presentation strategy in Chapter one of Capital where he initially presented a quantitative version of capital and strict separation of use value from value. Value needs to be seen far more dynamically.

    Marx says things then appears to contradict himself later, he is assuming that the reader understands Hegelian dialectics, which in most cases they don’t. Marx struggled with his presentation strategy as indicated by his numerous rewrites of the most important Chapter one of Capital.

    Another issue which I think is relevant is that Marx was writing on the shoulders of and arguing with Adam Smith and David Ricardo – who at least had some sort of common sense labour theory of value. ie. the culture of understanding of economic fundamentals may well have been firmer 160 years ago than now, since no value theory of merit is taught to economic students today. The most important point from Simon Clarke above is:

    ii) in the Critique the argument has a much more ‘Hegelian’ flavour: the argument is entirely formulated in terms of the development of the contradiction between (exchange)-value and use-value

  23. 23 Bill Kerr

    I have posted my line by line notes (18pp, too long and not appropriate for a blog post) to Marx’s “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”, with my comments interspersed in italics and a couple of pages of thoughts at the end to this google docs URL.

    I have set permissions so that anyone can visit and also edit the document. If you do edit it then please (a) use a different text colour so it is easy to spot, and (b) leave a comment on the Discussion thread. I’m asking for the latter so that I’ll receive an email notifying me of the edit. You can leave a Discussion comment without editing the original as well.

  24. 24 Arthur

    Thanks for the notes. Sorry, still drifting so I won’t be adding edits or much comments.

    This quote re p44 from pp12-13 strikes me as central:

    But it becomes a commodity for the buyer only if it is a use value
    The equalities and inequalities involved are mutually exclusive

    This is not simply a vicious circle of problems

    It is a complex of contradictory premises since the fulfillment of one condition depends directly on the fulfillment of its opposite

    (this seems to be an exaggerated joke because in reality it happens!)

    (perhaps his point is that there is a real problem which seems to be solved by money but in reality the contradiction is passed up the chain – the contradiction b/w production and circulation – and so is then expressed in reproduction)

    I think the key to get across is the idea of tracing these contradictions up the chain to capitalist crisis and transition from capitalism.

    Look forward to chatting when I see you again. Meanwhile back to Hegel for contradictions resolving into new contradictions…

  25. 25 Bill Kerr

    I think the section in David Harvey’s “Limits to Capital” on pp. 193-4 is good.
    – value as embodied labour time is not right (Ricardo)
    – socially necessary labour time is a better formulation
    – since capitalism is riddled with contradictions then so must the value concept be riddled
    – value is an unstable metric for describing an unstable world
    – capitalism has a perpetual tendency to produce non values, eg. unsold commodities
    – the very term and reality of devaluation implies that value is unstable
    – value can remain value only by staying in motion
    – as well as socially necessary labour time the concept of socially necessary turnover time is important

    In the footnote on p. 193 he refers to “marxists” who can’t make any sense of the idea of devaluation, refers to Hegel and fashions a value / not value dialectic which I think is helpful.

  26. 26 Arthur

    Yes those bullet points from Harvey indicates that he “gets it” in a way that other “marxists” clearly don’t.

    Also indicated by his grasp of relevance of rent and land valuation for spatial organization (geographer background).

    But he also comes up with “zero growth” as a goal which implies to me that he could not really “get it” after all.

  27. 27 Bill Kerr

    Capital against Capitalism
    Marx and Hegel scholar, Nicole Pepperell has published her PhD thesis on line. It is a challenging interpretation of the early chapters of Capital volume one in which, amongst other things, she alleges that Marx has a sense of humour. Despite the humour it is a serious attempt to come to terms with the most challenging section of Capital. In her words:

    I’ll focus even more strongly on Marx’s humour and the importance of understanding his humour if we want to unpack his argument – how much the work turns on vulgar restagings of the grand and elevated themes of the grandest and most elevated theory and philosophy of Marx’s own time

  28. 28 Bill Kerr

    I wasn’t clear about the concept of “immanent critique”. Then I came across this clear and simple explanation from Andy Blunden:

    I think the key concept to be taken from the Phenomenology of Spirit, is this concept of ‘immanent critique’. When you’re reading this book, you’ll read something, and think maybe ‘that’s a load of rubbish’ or whatever, and then, 10 pages later, you find Hegel showing that it’s a load of rubbish, and then going on to say something else. He doesn’t stand outside his subject matter, that is to say, a particular form of consciousness, and say what is wrong with it; he enters into that subject matter, a formation of consciousness, and argues in its own terms. So the idea is to show how in any way of thinking, or formation of consciousness, there is a certain standard of truth, a certain form of inference, by which what is true is measured. By continual application of that rule, at a certain point, the questioning of things, of putting things to the test, this continual skepticism, leads to the negation of that form itself, and it finds itself to be untrue. At some point or other then, a formation which is able to overcome that particular form of skepticism arises.
    Hegel: The First Cultural Psychologist

    This is Marx’s presentation strategy in Volume one, Chapter one. He first argues that value is congealed or embedded human labour. Then later he argues that value is a social form dependent on the exchange of commodities in the market place, that it is socially determined. This is all done in a flow of complex writing that doesn’t spell out that the later analysis is undermining the earlier analysis. Our poor post Hegel linear minds find it hard to deal with this. Hence, hardly anyone understands Marx.

    I don’t think Marx had to use this presentation strategy. It was a strategy that fitted the culture of his times when Hegel was more read than today. At any rate, Marx experimented with different presentation strategies in the Contribution to the Critique of PE and the first edition of Volume One. We can blame Marx for not explaining value clearly or blame our linear minds for not grasping Hegelian dialectics. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to do whatever it takes to understand value theory since it is the only explanation capitalism that makes sense.

    A more detailed introduction of Hegel by Andy Blunden is his Introduction to Hegel’s Logic. Since Hegel is too hard we need a guide and Andy might be the best guide around today. Lenin made a famous remark in his philosophical notebooks that no one understood Marx because no one understood Hegel.

  29. 29 jake

    Have you read Steve Keen’s thesis where he apparently debunks Marx’s Labor Theory of Value?

    It’s very convincing, and after searching for a few hours today online, I am yet to find anyone who has actually attempted to refute Keen or even done so successfully.

    Here is his thesis (be way it is 100 pages):

    Here is a somewhat shorter version:

    I’m fearful that the man is successful! I really hope this doesn’t mean the demise of marxian economics :s because I have found it quite compelling through my reading so far. Or else, we may have to abandon LTV.

  30. 30 Arthur

    Hi jake,

    I’ve read Steve’s thesis and was quite impressed that he has a significantly better grasp of Marx than most people who claim to either agree or disagree with Marx.

    In particular I agree with him (in agreement with Rosdolsky) that Marx had a strong emphasis on the importance of use-value ignored or misunderstood by most “Marxists”.

    However Steve’s claim that the use value of means of production creates surplus value in the same way that the use-value of labor power does, makes no sense to me.

    I won’t attempt a detailed refutation.

    But its worth noting that in volume III Marx shows that value becomes transformed into “production price” based on cost of production plus average rate of profit on total capital advanced.

    Lots of “Marxists” get very confused about labor theory of value (which was developed by Petty, Smith and Ricardo long before Marx) and simply don’t understand that value is actually production price.

    In addition to the reading above I’ll repeat my recommendations for:

    Pavel Maksakovsky’s “The Capitalist Cycle” which aims to provide the missing final chapter of Capital elaborating the concrete cyclical dynamics, based on an appreciation of the philosophical logic.

    He simply takes it for granted that “production price” should be understood as “value”.

    Please click on this link to request that Amazon provide an ebook version even if you don’t order it:

    Also a reminder that the Leningrad textbook of Marxist Philosophy is a useful supplement to Mao’s “On Practice” and “On Contradiction” (which Mao studied when writing those).

  31. 31 Arthur

    PS “In addition to reading above” should refer instead to just Marx (Contribution to Critique and Capital volumes 1-3 and Grundrisse) and Rosdolsky and Simon Clarke. I don’t recommend the others Bill listed as they tend to be examples of the confusion.

  32. 32 jake

    I’ll take your recommendations and insights aboard, thanks Arthur.

  33. 33 jake

    Ah, sorry Bill I should have seen that you already linked to Steve’s thesis – my bad!

  34. 34 Bill Kerr

    I still think we need a more detailed analysis of Steve Keen’s ideas, Jake, so thanks for drawing attention to it again.

  35. 35 Bill Kerr

    Simon Clarke Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology (book, 270pp)

    Ch 3 clarifies what Marx meant by alienated labour and its central role in value theory / critique of political economy, an issue which I haven’t been able to comprehend fully before reading this.

    I like the way Simon Clarke traces the threads b/w the so called young Marx and mature Marx and makes sense of them. That is very impressive given the confusion that surrounds such issues. He also provides us with cogent critiques of various wrong pathways gone done by various “marxists”. I am not aware of any author who threads the needle along this tortuous pathway better than Simon Clarke, so would recommend this book as essential reading.

    This book is good for other reasons as well (marginalism, history of eco thought, origins of sociology) and I hope to provide a more comprehensive review later.

  36. 36 Arthur

    Is it best to read Simon Clarke on Marginalism before or after on Keynes?

  37. 37 Bill Kerr

    From Simon Clarke’s references to mmm2, p. 56, I gather that the original source of his interpretation of the origin and continuity of Marx’s views on alienation of labour, that it is ontologically prior to division of labour, is Christopher Arthur’s Dialectics of Labour: Marx and his Relation to Hegel, which is available as an online book.

    Christopher Arthur:

    For Marx, from 1844, the problem of alienation in modern society is understood to gravitate around the estrangement of labour. All other spheres of estrangement are to be related to this. [4]

    What we find, then, in the 1844 Manuscripts is the emergence of a new theory of extraordinary scope and fertility.[5] As such it is one of the most exciting texts in the history of modern philosophy. At the same time, it is one of the most difficult, partly because of its fragmentary character; even more, because of the complexity and originality of Marx’s new ideas. Indeed the vast scope of the project sketched out in these manuscripts defeated Marx himself. Only a part of the programme he outlined for himself was undertaken, namely the researching and writing of Capital – and even that project remained incomplete at his death. The critique of Hegel, by contrast, was never taken up; although Marx continually promised himself that he would write some sheets on what is rational in Hegel’s dialectic.

    This book sets out an interpretation of Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts. It will attempt to clarify what is obscure and to complete thoughts Marx left incomplete. A special effort is made to assess Marx’s relationship to Hegel, which is one of extraordinary complexity; the influence of Hegel on Marx is enormous, yet Marx’s embrace of materialism sets him poles apart from Hegel. Not surprisingly, the matter is a controversial one. The evidence offered by the 1844 Manuscripts of Marx’s own understanding of his relation to Hegel has been insufficiently studied (except by Georg Lukács in his masterly work The Young Hegel), and never properly explicated. The question is not without its importance; for the central role played by labour in Marx’s thought, and its character as ‘the activity of alienation, the alienation of activity’, is much illuminated by tracing Marx’s route out of Hegel. Above all, this book aims to bring out fully the dialectical aspects of Marx’s thought at this important turning point.

  38. 38 Arthur

    (sigh) So now my sequence is:

    1. Dialectics of Labour (to understand 2)

    2. Simon Clarke on Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology (for 3)

    3. Simon Clarke on Keynes (for 4)

    4. Keynes General Theory (generally necessary and for 5)

    5. Minsky on Keynes (generally necessary)

    The only one not readily available for download is 1 which is setup to make it difficult to read except online.

    However there is a .mobi version which can be converted to any convenient format for reading offline using free calibre software here:

    Christopher John Arthur – Dialectics of Labour

    BTW I’ll repeat in this thread the most important reading:

    There is an OCR “Pavel Maksakovsky – The Capitalist Cycle.pdf” at:

    That link should be publicized widely as there seems to be little awareness about this important book.

    Meanwhile I’m reading Charles Bettelheim on Economic Calculation and also intending to read more of Ropke, Hazlett and other “Austrians” as well as Hegel.

  39. 39 Arthur

    Sorry, ignore previous link. Correct link is:

    Christopher John Arthur – Dialectics of Labour_Marx and his relation to

    PS Kindle lists only the chapters in Table of Contents and Chapter 1 as “beginning” at 2%. Go back to 0% for full table of contents including introduction at start and bibliography at end.

  40. 40 Bill Kerr

    Some discussion about what Marx to read on this reddit thread:
    I sometimes leave comments on reddit threads. This one was unusual in that the originator wrote back.

  41. 41 Bill Kerr
  42. 42 Ross Wolfe

    In terms of pre-Marxist works on value, Adam Smith and David Ricardo are obviously key thinkers.

    Within the annals of Marxist literature on value-theory, besides the works of Marx himself, many of the works you point out here are excellent. Isaak Rubin, Roman Rosdolskii, and David Harvey are great resources. As someone already pointed out, however, Moishe Postone’s writings on the value theory of labor (rather than a labor theory of value) are better than Harvey’s.

    You can access some of Postone’s major works here: “The Works of the Historian and Marxist Theorist Moishe Postone”

    Bill Kerr mentions Hilferding’s defense of Marx against Böhm-Bawerk’s criticism. This is also an excellent study.

  43. 43 jim sharp

    interesting none of youse mention?:An Introduction to the History of Crisis Theories by anwar shaikd source>>

  44. 44 Arthur

    Hi Ross Wolfe, thanks for Postone links.

    I’ve downloaded them for future reference. (Gave up on hardcopy of “Time, Labour and Social Domination” as too academic – which I’m afraid is also my general reaction to Frankfurt school and Platypus, despite lots of common ground cf other trends).

    BTW the only download of Postone I had before was: “History and Helplessness” which wasn’t in your collection but must be available somewhere online or I wouldn’t have it.

    I’m very puzzled re David Harvey as he does seem to grasp some aspects of Marx (eg on rent), yet I don’t see how it is POSSIBLE to advocate “zero growth” and have ANY conception of Marxism.

    (BTW also lots of common ground with Spiked cf other trends but “too smugly liberal”)

    Please take a careful look at Maksakovsky (linked above). Its an attempt at actually implying Marx’s understanding of value (embracing production prices and the unity of opposites between exchange value and use value) to produce a “final chapter” of Capital with a systematic account of the cycle and crisis instead of just fragments. Appears to have been largely ignored.

    As you may be in contact with the sort of academics who ought to be interested I’m hoping you might draw it to their attention.

  45. 45 Bill Kerr

    Once you understand value theory or think you understand it then what do you do with it?

    One answer is to chase karma at reddit threads:

    My contributions are at

  46. 46 jad

    “… I don’t see how it is POSSIBLE to advocate “zero growth” and have ANY conception of Marxism.”

    Whilst “accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets” may be systemic to capitalism, I don’t see (and presume David Harvey doesn’t see either) any a priori reason why Marxism implies that a post-capitalist society cannot be zero growth.

    This is a purely empirical issue based on the technology and resources available. E.g. If it takes another century before we are able to effectively exploit mineral resources beyond Earth, a period of zero growth in the use of physical resources may be both rational and necessary.

  47. 47 Bill Kerr

    It’s not really an empirical test to present a worst case thought experiment based on the perverse opinions of green alarmists, particularly given that those opinions have to an extent entered mainstream thinking. ie. there are certain environmental issues and they need to be considered rationally:
    Energy (and CO2 related issues) – there are alternatives to fossil fuels if we need them, although more expensive at the moment, eg. nuclear
    Resources – most resources can be recycled if required and the trend with new technology is nearly always to do more with less

    Each point of the litany can be discussed and responded to. All sorts of growth can continue and step up, along with expanded R&D, in a post capitalist society, freed from periodic crisis and stagnation.

    As for increasing productivity being marxist then I can’t see how it is a big issue wrt Capital (and that IMO explains why Harvey can do it, that it is possible), because that is mainly a critique of capitalism and political economy. However, if you go back to the Communist Manifesto the message is clear there. He was lyrical in praising the bourgeoisie insofar as it unleashed the forces of production, directly advocated more of the same as an aim of revolutionary communists (“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible”) and was very critical of socialists who advocated restraint or cramping of the productive forces.

    It’s reasonable to assume that David Harvey is just going along with his friends in this matter, since the green culture on the left is very strong. I haven’t studied the Spiked article in detail but thought it was more about cherry picking negatives about Harvey than trying to provide an objective assessment. I’ve found Harvey’s book, Limits to Capital, to be very useful at times but even so I don’t think I understand Marx sufficiently to evaluate it objectively yet.

  48. 48 Arthur

    I just finished the intro to Chris Arthur “The New Dialectic and Marx’s Capital”:

    Looks like both that tendency and the related Unoist (Tom Sekine) tendency he mentions are necessary reading.

    Still haven’t found anybody actually grappling with current conjuncture from a genuinely Marxist perspective.

    Econophysics and Agent based Computational Economics (ACE) etc may be more fruitful.

    Also finished part I and II of Myron Gordon:

    “Finance, Investment and Macroeconomics” is what needs to be understood as a result of understanding value theory, but I still don’t get it and still haven’t found a source of enlightenment.

  49. 49 Bill Kerr

    Now reading Chris Arthur “The New Dialectic and Marx’s Capital”, thanks for link arthur. I see many things to like about Chris Arthur’s reformulation of the original Marx. eg. his reformulations of abstract labour, exploitation and value determination in Ch. 3. At times I thought he was striving a bit too hard to be original or different but so far I have always found his interpretation to be helpful in understanding Marx.

    The stronger case would be that marx didn’t explain himself very clearly – combined with mangled translations from the German, lacked a word processor and modern data storage and search facilities, working in adverse conditions of poverty, his kids dying, wife in distress etc. It would not be surprising if someone who actually understands Marx could present his findings in a way which makes them 10% easier to understand, which in turn would create a ripple effect of enhanced understanding. One of the keys to the door is grasping and explaining the method (Hegelian sensitivity training) and Chris Arthur is doing this for me, at least.

    I was wondering about his references. Noticed he was often quoting Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58. Looked it up and its part of Grundrisse so why reference it separately? It turns out that there are significant errors in the Martin Nicolaus translation of Grundrisse. See So, clearly Chris Arthur pays a lot of attention to detail and combines that with a bold vision in his reformulation.

    To conclude: although many scholars habitually use the Nicolaus translation, in my opinion it has been superseded by the newer translation in Collected Works 28 and 29. The reasons for this judgement are:
    1. The 1953 German text used by Nicolaus has been superseded by that in the new MEGA (1976-81) used for the Collected Works. All the advances in scholarship that make the later source superior to the earlier ipso facto apply to their translations (e.g. Nicolaus lacks the final page – VII: 64 – of excerpts on Gold-weighing machines).
    2. Nicolaus mistranslates the central term ‘Verwertung’. Collected Works correctly renders this ‘valorisation’. Unless it can be shown that the Collected Works translation is definitely inferior in other respects this consideration is decisive.
    3. The Nicolaus edition has no Index. The Collected Works edition has full notes and large Indexes.

  50. 50 Arthur

    Yes, I found Christopher Arthur helpful, although heavy going and a reminder that it is necessary to come to grips with Hegel.

    Especially useful so far is emergence of value, price and abstract labour TOGETHER and capital (or anything) recursively both reproducing and transforming its own conditions of existence.

    I’ve read to Ch 5 but will pause for a while to brush up on maths at least during February.

    Am convinced that explaining Marx 10% better requires expressing in terms of modern language of emergence in self-organizing complex systems as well as “dialectics” together with actual “toy models” of such emergence.

  51. 51 Arthur

    This book (and web site) looks useful for expressing study of the chaotic evolution of recursively self-organizing complex systems in more understandable language than materialist dialectics:

    Only skimmed preface so far but like the sound of it. Also chapter by Christian Fuchs explicitly connects to Engels dialectics of nature etc.

    See also by Fuchs:

    Other references to genre via back citation to Kauffman “At Home in the Universe” and other references cited in these. Should be able to find overlaps with econophysics.

  52. 52 Bill Kerr

    A couple of papers claiming that LTV is good for empirical calculation, the maths is above my head for now but they might be of interest, arthur:
    The Empirical Strength of the Labour Theory of Value
    Anwar M. Shaikh

    The Scientific Status of the Labour Theory of Value
    W. Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrell

    btw I found these through one of the reddit debates

  53. 53 Arthur

    Worth knowing about:

    Claims to be largest ebook library, with over 1.2 million.

    Direct download links with no ads delays, or other annoyances.

    Does have very extensive collections on Economics, Philosophy, Marxism, Maths, Science etc etc.

    Recommend search there BEFORE general google.

  54. 54 Alexander

    I just happened to drop into this place through some random googling of Marx’s theory of labor, and I see that it’s quite a old post, but still im gonna make a post regarding Harveys zero-growth advocacy.

    Im really suprised that you are “puzzled” by David Harveys zero growth advocacy. After all, Marx sets out to criticize “production for productions sake” and “accumulation for the sake of accumulation”, i.e. growth for the sake of growth. Although it’s true that he does applaud capitalisms ability to enhance and liberate the productive forces of society, he is at the same time sceptical to the alienating side of the process. Marx do hint at some places that a society beyond capitalism is potentially a “stationary state economy”, that is a zero-growth society. This was a very common conception amongst the classicals, that capitalisms endpoint may be a stationary-state economy. But while Smith, Malthus and Ricardo belived that such a state would come by through “diminishing returns of the land”, Mill, Marx, and later Keynes, thought such a state would come by through “diminishing marginal utility”, so to say. Isn’t the whole point of Marx’s theory of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, to point towards capitalisms endpoint, and towards a society beyond capitalism. The whole idea of communism is a society without wage labor, without money, commodities, and without the value-structure that dominates capitalist society and drives it towards endless growth.

    I find is puzzling to hear marxists advocate endless growth, to me that is some kind of bourgoise leftish idea. Not even classical liberals thought endless growth would be possible on a finite planet, and if you really understand Marx’s theory of capital accumulation, and have some knowledge of the relation between economic growth and environmental issues, you soon realize why so called “green growth” will not be the key force that will solve any environmental problems. Marx have the answer to why green growth wont solve the problems. I think Harvey is really on the right track here.

  55. 55 admin

    Alexander, I have asked Bill to comment on this when he has time I will also speak with Dave McMullen as he is also red and expert in this area. My area is philosophy and I feel unable to discuss this with you in depth. I can assure you though that in ‘this place’ there is no question that we are Marxists here. That doesn’t mean we have a developed line but that we have an open, honest and above board approach to major questions. The problem for Marxism/Marxists remains that a dialectical approach as presented here does not lend itself to the simplistic dichotomies you have presented above.

    You have set forth your summation of what Marx was arguing in an entire 14 lines, and said we are some kind of ‘bourgeois leftists’, I am sure that your summation would be very much up for contention and not just from here. Even from my inexpert eye, given that one of the main Marxist philosophical ideas was that the point of philosophy was not merely to understand the world but to change it – the idea of a stagnant society and economy anathema.

  56. 56 Alexander

    Really appreciating your answer, i’m not here to argue, but i approached Marx through environmental studies and ecological economics, and while Marx seldom take a pro- or anti-growth stance, i do find an overall scepticism towards growth as only positive, with potentially negative effects for the two main sources of wealth: labor and the soil (which easily can be generalized to include nature in it’s whole). My views of Marx is very much influenced by authors such as moishe postone, Robert kurz, claus Peter ortlieb, John Bellamy foster and David harvey, all of them in one way or another putting emphasis on this dimension of Marx, especially John Bellamy foster. I just ffound it puzzling that zero-growth advocacy was such an alien idea for some of you.

    I have no doubts of your political leanings. With the term “bourgeoisie” i refer to the tendency to naturalise the economic system; what i found bourgeoisie leftish in this respect was the notion of endless growth as something given and natural. But maybe that is somewhat uncalled for. I am just curious to see how one integrates and understands the concept of growth in relation to marxist theory, and perhaps Bill will give me a good answer.

  57. 57 patrickm

    Because you arrived from ‘…random googling of Marx’s theory of labor’ you’re ‘really surprised that [people here] are “puzzled” by David Harvey’s zero growth advocacy.’
    This surprise is because you think;‘After all, Marx sets out to criticize “production for production’s sake” and “accumulation for the sake of accumulation”, i.e. growth for the sake of growth.’ SO you have gone off in the wrong direction right from the word go.

    Nevertheless you do understand that ‘ it’s true that he does applaud capitalisms ability to enhance and liberate the productive forces of society,’ but you are then muddled because ‘ he is at the same time sceptical to the alienating side of the process.’

    You had better quote Marx as to why you think;
    ‘Marx do(sic) hint at some places that a society beyond capitalism is potentially a “stationary state economy”, that is a zero-growth society. This was a very common conception amongst the classicals, that capitalisms endpoint may be a stationary-state economy. But while Smith, Malthus and Ricardo believed that such a state would come by through “diminishing returns of the land”, Mill, Marx, and later Keynes, thought such a state would come by through “diminishing marginal utility”, so to say. Isn’t the whole point of Marx’s theory of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall to point towards capitalisms endpoint and towards a society beyond capitalism. The whole idea of communism is a society without wage labor, without money, commodities, and without the value-structure that dominates capitalist society and drives it towards endless growth.’

    I think the above indicates that you are hopelessly muddled.

    ‘Per ardua sic itur ad astra’ (through struggle thus to the stars) is my motto and I can’t imagine why anyone would not think that I am on the same side of the fence as ‘orthodox’ Marxist thinking. The only thing holding humanity back is not having control of the means of production (those means are owned currently by an owning class that ultimately deploys them as profit dictates) In the communist future stuff will be deployed to satisfy human wants as they unfold and humans have shown an endless capacity for wanting. Thus we go to the stars!

    You find it puzzling to hear that endless growth would be possible on a finite planet, so IMV it is rather obvious that you had better start to widen your reading. Try this wonderful progressive right-winger Julian Simon The Ultimate Resource and then we might go further with why the left proudly stands on the shoulders of such thinking.

    Raw materials and energy are getting less scarce. The world’s food supply is
    improving. Pollution in the developed countries has been decreasing. Population
    growth has long-term benefits, though added people are a burden in the short run.
    Most important, fewer people are dying young.
    These assertions, publicly stated in 1970 and then in the first edition of this
    book in 1981, have stood the test of time. The benign trends have continued until
    this edition. Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way.
    (The Introduction lists others among the more dramatic findings of the book and each chapter ends with a summary on its particular topic.) And there is stronger reason than ever to believe that these progressive trends will continue indefinitely.

    You say – in a perfectly circular manner – ‘if you really understand Marx’s theory of capital accumulation, [like Alexander] and have some knowledge of the relation between economic growth and environmental issues [like Alexander], you soon realize [like Alexander] why so called “green growth” will not be the key force that will solve any environmental problems [like Alexander]. So naturally you ‘ think Harvey is really on the right track here.’

    That’s a near useless way to investigate anything.

    You ought to be here to present an argument but you haven’t. You are just spouting the usual green poison and want a lesson on the cheap. Well I don’t think anyone is interested in teaching you stuff one on one.

    If you have ‘approached Marx through environmental studies and ecological economics’ you are in Neverland for sure and before you can make any sense you have to be free of that juvenile dead end. I’ll show you what I mean by an example of others that are into ‘moishe postone, …John Bellamy foster and David harvey, all of them in one way or another putting emphasis on this dimension of Marx, especially John Bellamy foster.’

    ‘I just found it puzzling that zero-growth advocacy was such an alien idea for some of you.’
    Well you could review this one to see how people who parade as Marxists AND greens actually carry on confronted with non green thinking.

    patrickm Ben Campbell • 2 years ago
    I don’t have any time for the green philosophy that is overwhelming in the milieu that Ben Campbell exists in. So I thought I would just step by patient step, make an argument to demonstrate how muddle-headed the thinking is that led to Ben’s comment above.
    I really think that ‘Red and green don’t mix.’ I believe that political colours are widely understood even in the U.S.A. and that communists like me have always been referred to as reds. We reds are proud of our ‘flag’ and have been talking about the moribund ‘left’ for almost as long as I can recall. We reds in our turn, don’t like the flag being falsely flown.

    We have often described insipid views that would rob reds of proven revolutionary understandings of how the world works, while still claiming to be of that revolutionary left as nothing but pink.’

    I am not curious to see how the concept of stagnation is married to any ‘marxist theory’. This is the full record of what went on at TNS and is well worth mining for gems in response to that dead end pseudoleftism.

  58. 58 patrickm

    Oh and a reminder to all!

    Events in Greece in particular but really right round the planet are now moving this world wide capitalist system into a realm that NO ONE and not any crisis G20 (and nothing any bigger will help) has any experience of. Zip-Nada-Nothing. They are in La La Land and they look it.

    IMV nothing is making much sense at a government level and I guess nothing would really surprise anyone who is paying attention. Australia for example has now smashed into an income and expenses wall where government accounts are just no longer adding up and the political jam is so stark as to be head shaking.

    Arthur mentioned that in this thread the most important reading in his view is;
    Pavel Maksakovsky – The Capitalist Cycle and that there is an OCR “Pavel Maksakovsky – The Capitalist Cycle.pdf” at:
    but that is not still up as far as I can see
    and that;
    The link should be publicized widely as there seems to be little awareness about this important book that aims to provide the missing final chapter of Capital elaborating the concrete cyclical dynamics, based on an appreciation of the philosophical logic. He simply takes it for granted that “production price” should be understood as “value”.

    and he said to…
    Please click on this link to request that Amazon provide an ebook version even if you don’t order it:

    Also a reminder that the Leningrad textbook of Marxist Philosophy is a useful supplement to Mao’s “On Practice” and “On Contradiction” (which Mao studied when writing those).

    So for those that are paying attention – Please take a careful look at Maksakovsky.

    It’s an attempt at …a “final chapter” of Capital with a systematic account of the cycle and crisis instead of just fragments, which as Arthur said ‘Appears to have been largely ignored.’

    as has
    Unemployment and Revolution is something to keep people well grounded even if it could stand to be updated for current politicians and so forth. All these arguments are now back on the main stage as the growing issue of what is to be done about the unaffordable welfare costs!

  59. 59 patrickm
  60. 60 Alexander

    First of all I guess I need to point out that I arrived here for some literature tips on value theory, and found myself just reading some of the comments in this post. My earlier pretty short comments were due to me being on the road – typing on the cell phone – or in a hurry. Sloppy of me of course – and perhaps I really didn’t expect much of an answer either to develop mu initial post in the first place. I usually don’t comment on blogs or write in forums, and after my initial post I immediately regretted writing here since I don’t really feel comfortable discussing on the internet. I guess an emotional outburst overwhelmed me, triggered by what I found to be a narrow-minded way to conceive Marx’s theory. I am sorry for my foul way of debating; I first portrait myself as a fool, with few arguments, and now explodes into long paragraphs of reasoning – very unprofessional of me. Perhaps we are not totally opposite to each other, at least when it comes to attitude towards green ideology, maybe it was just my prejudices giving off warning signals in my head, thinking that I was dealing with some Stalinist state-capitalists / neo-feudalists. Anyway, since I’ve gotten myself into this I now feel obliged to give a proper reply. I’ve been working on this reply for some days now, but I hope it was worth the wait.

    It was the comments above about how wrong headed zero-growth advocacy is being a Marxist. You can’t be a commie and advocate zero-growth at the same time, apparently. Other than Bill Kerrs remark on this in the main post, the comments were mainly made by this Arthur dude:

    “Was impressed by Harvey’s grasp of relevance of theory of rent to value theory am too prejudiced by the “zero growth” advocacy to take him seriously as I just don’t see how anyone on the wrong side of that question can have much useful to say about Marxism.”

    “But he also comes up with “zero growth” as a goal which implies to me that he could not really “get it” after all.”

    “I’m very puzzled re David Harvey as he does seem to grasp some aspects of Marx (eg on rent), yet I don’t see how it is POSSIBLE to advocate “zero growth” and have ANY conception of Marxism.”

    And of course the Admin expressed this as well who sees growth as the same thing as development and change, which is a somewhat vulgar view of it. I believe these comments signals a very stiff understanding of Marx conception about a society beyond capitalism. But perhaps you are more dynamic in your thinking than you have made yourselves appear. Lets start with Marx and some preliminary remarks about his conception about communism, after which I will venture further onward to the growth / zero-growth debate.

    I. Marx, value-relation, communism and growth

    For starters I will go through some of Marx’s basic concepts in order to lay bare the dynamic of capital, something that you probably are well familiar with. Why is this basic stuff important? Well it is when it comes to discussing what the value-relation do with society, what these relations set in motion, and also what the purpose of communism is. I assume (wrongly?) that you have read Ivan Illich Rubin, many of the following points made may be familiar to you then, since I’ve drawn some inspiration from Rubin (and Moishe Postone as well, which in turn develops further on Rubins thinking).

    Lets start with a quote by Moishe Postone (p25): “According to Marx, however, value is a historically specific form of social wealth and is intrinsically related to a historically specific mode of production”, a social form where Value exercise its reign upon, and shape the mode of production in its image to fulfill its purposes of self-valorization. Marx’s conception of value should not seen anything universal and ahistorical, as some people would make of it, arguing that the “law of value” have been with us for thousands of years or so. For Marx the value-relation is a historically specific set of social relations as well as a historically specific form of wealth – as opposed to material wealth. This historically specificity of the value-relation is set out in the very beginning of Capital:

    “The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, appears as an “immense collection of commodities”; the individual commodity appears as its elementary form.” (Capital, my emphasis)

    I put emphasis on “appears” because is signals that something else is actually going on. The real source of wealth in capitalism is in fact value, and the commodity (and material wealth) is just a form of appearance, something that is secondary to creating value. This becomes clearer in the next quote:

    “Use values … constitute the substance of all wealth, whatever may be the social form of that wealth. In the form of society we are about to consider [capitalist society], they are, in addition, the material depositories of exchange value.” (Capital, my emphasis)

    And exchange value, as you probably know, is the manifest expression of the value dimension of the commodity. When a commodity is a value, it also has an exchange value. The distinction Marx makes out in the above quote is the double character a thing gets in capitalist society; on the one side a thing have a material substance, which refers to the nature of the thing (for example a table, its function, made out of wood etc.), and on the other side a societal form, which refers to the societal relation(s) in which the thing is embedded into. In capitalism, the thing becomes a commodity, and therefore the material things become “bearers” of a certain societal form, which is something else entirely than its actual being. It’s not a natural aspect of the thing when it’s ascribed an exchange value. Only in societies where exchange is widely-spread, things assume exchange values, and become commodities; that is, only in capitalism things get “depositories of exchange value”, and thus, only in capitalism, value becomes prevalent as a social relation. In pre-capitalist societies things were usually not produced for exchange, and therefore weren’t split into these two dimensions.

    “In order to become a commodity, the product must cease to be produced as the immediate means of subsistence of the producer himself. Had we gone further, and inquired under what circumstances all, or even the majority of products take the form of commodities, we would have found that this only happens on the basis of one particular mode of production, the capitalist one.” (Capital, v.1 p.273)

    This signals a new social form of interdependence, which becomes fully developed as labor itself becomes a commodity. Like the commodity, labor itself get splits into two dimensions, corresponding to the two forms of wealth that the commodity represents; concrete labor that produces particular goods (use-values; material wealth) for others, and on the other side labor serves as a means of acquiring goods, in this way labor also become a social mediation. It is this latter that we refer to as abstract labor. These social mediations is at the same time, as values, reified social mediations. Value is the objectification of abstract labor.

    “Capital does not consist in accumulated labour serving living labour as a means for new production. It consists in living labour serving accumulated labour as a means for maintaining and multiplying the exchange value of the latter. Thus capital presupposes wage labour; wage labour presupposes capital. They reciprocally condition the existence of each other; they reciprocally bring forth each other.” (Wage labour and capital)

    This is also present in the Grundrisse (page 704f), under the section entitled “Contradiction between the foundation of bourgeois production (value as measure) and its development”. Where he states:
    “The exchange of living labor for objectified labor – i.e., the positing of social labor in the form of the contradiction of capital and wage labor – is the ultimate development of the value relation and of production resting on value”.

    Value is here conceived by Marx as the “foundation of bourgeois production”, and it reaches its full blown stage as soon as labor turns into a commodity; capital have long pushed for the commoditization of labor, by making people dependent upon wage labor (creating a proletariat) by means of deskilling, expropriation (through enclosure of land etc.), and the more dependent the mass of population have become on wage labor for survival, the more value could expand. As stated in the quote above: they both presuppose each other. Value exists as objectified abstract labor, and as such it obtain a life of its own. Here I will quote Postone at length:

    The system constituted by abstract labor embodies a new form of social domination. It exerts a form of social compulsion whose impersonal, abstract, and objective character is historically new. The initial determination of such abstract social compulsion is that individuals are compelled to produce and exchange commodities in order to survive. This compulsion exerted is not a function of direct social domination, as is the case, for example, with slave or serf labor; it is, rather, a function of “abstract” and “objective” social structures, and represents a form of abstract, impersonal domination. Ultimately, this form of domination is not grounded in any person, class or institution; its ultimate locus is the pervasive structuring social forms of capitalist society that are constituted by determinate forms of social practice [i.e. certain social practices – of production and exchange in order to survive – give rise to and reproduce these structures of domination, these structures in turn shape the practices of people]. Society, as the quasi-independent, abstract, universal Other that stands opposed to the individuals and exerts an impersonal compulsion on them, is constituted as an alienated structure by the double character of labor in capitalism. The category of value, as the basic category of capitalist relations of production, is also the initial determination of alienated social structures. Capitalist social relations and alienated structures are identical.” (Postone, p159)
    [here, and before this quoted part as well, Postone compares the concept of alienation in Marx early writing vs. in capital] … alienation is the process of the objectification of abstract labor [in Capital]. It does not entail the externalization of a preexisting human essence [as in Economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844]; rather, it entails the coming into being of human powers in alienated form. In other words, alienation refers to a process of the historical constitution of human powers which is effected by labor objectifying itself as a socially mediating activity. Through this process, an abstract, objective social sphere emerges, which acquires a life of its own and exists as a structure of abstract domination over and against the individuals. … This alienated form induces a rapid accumulation of the social wealth and productive power of humanity, and it entails as well the increasing fragmentation of labor, the formal regimentation of time, and the destruction of nature.” (Postone, p162, my emphasis)

    This abstract and objective form of social domination is also present in the Economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844, but instead of a human essence being externalized, it’s rather labor time that becomes alienated and creates a set of structures in society, which lives a life of their own:

    “The worker puts his life into the object; but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object. Hence, the greater this activity, the more the worker lacks objects. Whatever the product of his labor is, he is not. Therefore, the greater this product, the less is he himself. The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power on its own confronting him. It means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien.”

    But this objectified, or alienated, labor, while becoming a value, also obtains a temporal dynamic. This temporality is a dimension of the abstract domination exerted by the structures of alienated social relations.

    “Not only is one compelled to produce and exchange commodities in order to survive. But – if one is to obtain the “full value” of one’s labor time – that time must equal the temporal norm expressed by socially necessary labor time. As a category of the totality, socially necessary labor time expresses a quasi-objective social necessity with which the producers are confronted.” (Postone, p191)
    Thanks to labor being alienated, therefore becoming a value, it can serve as a means for more value, for further expansion of value. Accumulation of objectified labor in order to increase exchange value. What drives this is the temporal dynamic that appears in capitalism. Thereby value becomes capital as a result of self-valorization, in order to promote surplus value, and this creates a dynamic. It is “value in motion”, whose movements generate cycles of production and consumption, creation and destruction. Thus: “Accumulation for accumulation’s sake, production for production’s sake” (Capital v.1, chapter 24). So what the value-relation set in motion is a systemic compulsion to create surplus value, which results in certain modes of growth and production, waves of innovation and “creative destruction”.

    Self-valorizing value presupposes a set of historically specific institutions which combined give rise to this value-relation and its dynamic. These different institutions is more or less explicitly pointed out by Marx. Others he does not mention, but I see them of equal importance. These institutions are: money and its changed role (gold went from religious token to means of exchange); private property; comprehensive division of labor which spreads the need for, and the material preconditions for exchange (from there it isn’t far from appropriating gold as a means of exchange, historian Jacques le Goff writes about this); the creation of a proletariat; a new relation to nature (abandoning animism); a new conception of time (without the modern conception of time, the phenomenon of “efficiency” wouldn’t “exist” as a social category). All these institutions have no special order in which they have to appear, but the relate to each other dialectical, growing out of each other, intermesh, and impinge on each other’s developmental tracks.

    Growth is a result of a certain dynamic that arises in capitalist society as a set of systemic imperatives. What then is the relation to the concept of growth in communist society? In the Critique of the Gotha Program, Capital v.3. (chapter 48), Capital v.2. (chapter 18, section 3), and Capital v.1. (chapter 1, section 4), at least two things becomes apparent regarding communism: 1) it is no longer grounded in exchange; laboring, production and distribution is consciously regulated by society. Capital (self-valorizing value), wage labor, commodity and money no longer exist, or at least its existence is diminished (capital will continue to exists to the extent that these institutions prevail). Higher productivity should first and foremost promote free time, diminishing of the working day, and mankind as the goal of development, rather than self-valorization. 2) Communism isn’t only about redistribution of wealth, but emancipation from the particular structures of social domination mentioned above. What is to be overcome isn’t simply the exploitation of the workers, but the bourgeoisie fetishism as well. In order to liberate themselves from unnecessary compulsion, the fetish have to be overcome, which makes possible the free association of people. The upheaval of the above mentioned institutions also imply a emancipation of the growth compulsion that self-valorizing value creates. Its about emancipation from a structure that subordinate society to its own operating logic.

    It is true that Marx does not define communism as necessarily stationary, but his conception of communism does certainly not imply the need for growth for its reproduction. When I say that communist society is potentially a steady-state economic system, it’s on the basis of Marx general idea of communism in its very ontology as a non-growth oriented society – communism is ontologically a non-growth society. This doesn’t mean that growth cannot occur, but communist society does not necessitate growth, and the goal isn’t just growth for the sake of growth, but the promotion of the development of the individual. In the case of growth occurring it is a result of a consciously made decision. As I will point out more clearly in the next section, growth should not be seen as a “thing in itself”, it’s merely a byproduct of a certain developmental process – in capitalist society in specific it’s a byproduct of waves of capital accumulation. Today growth exist as both a growth of values and physical growth (increased throughput of energy and materials), in communist society, the concept of growth would probably become meaningless, or just refer to the physical growth of society (since the value-relation is abolished).

    What made me exclaim “bourgeois lefty” was what seemed to be some serious reification going on, naturalizing the state of economic growth as something unproblematic, and neutral or even inherently good. If you don’t know how anyone Marxist can advocate zero-growth – believing they severely misinterpret Marx – then I would beg to differ, you clearly must have a hard time understanding what growth really is, and where it “comes from”. I’m not saying that all Marxist necessarily must be zero-growth supporters, the issue here is about how to understand growth as something that is produced by the logic of capitalism. And implying that “you can’t be a marxist without advocate endless growth” is to me a great sign of rigid thinking.

    The very point of communism isn’t creating ever more material wealth, its rather more free time; communism is free time. This becomes obvious in certain parts of the Grundrisse. According to Postone, Marx argues that “the form of production based on value develops in a way that points to the possible historical negation of value itself” (Postone, p. 26). This becomes apparent in the following quotes:

    “But to the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth [material wealth, i.e. use-values] comes to depend less on labor time and on the amount of labor employed than of the power of the agencies set in motion during labor time, whose “powerful effectiveness” is itself … out of all proportion to the direct labor time spent on their production, but depends rather on the general state of science and on the progress of technology … Real wealth manifests itself, rather … in the monstrous disproportion between the labor time applied, and its product, as well as in the qualitative imbalance between labor, reduced to a pure abstraction, and the power of the production process it superintends” (Grundrisse, p. 704-5)

    In capitalist development, a glimpse appears of another societal form, which opens up the possibility for a different process of production, one more emancipatory and not shaped by the blind force of valorization:

    “Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself. (What holds for machinery holds likewise for the combination of human activities and the development of human intercourse.) No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing as middle link between the object and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature, transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and inorganic nature, mastering it. He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. In this transformation, it is neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the development of the general powers of the human head. With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. The free development of individualities, and hence not the reduction of necessary labour time so as to posit surplus labour, but rather the general reduction of the necessary labour of society to a minimum, which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific etc. development of the individuals in the time set free, and with the means created, for all of them. Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth. Hence it diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary. On the one side, then, it calls to life all the powers of science and of nature, as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour time employed on it. On the other side, it wants to use labour time as the measuring rod for the giant social forces thereby created, and to confine them within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value. Forces of production and social relations – two different sides of the development of the social individual – appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high. ‘Truly wealthy a nation, when the working day is 6 rather than 12 hours. Wealth is not command over surplus labour time’ (real wealth), ‘but rather, disposable time outside that needed in direct production, for every individual and the whole society.’[The source and remedy etc.1821, p.6]” (Grundrisse p. 705)

    You could say that in these paragraphs, the society built upon the productive achievements of capitalism seems to be promoting free time. The point isn’t to increase the industrial scale for the sake of increasing it. The point of communism isn’t just to provide a more materially wealthy society, but just as much to give people the free time to develop on their own terms. What Marx here lays bare is the tendency, or possibility, that appears in capitalism, where the mode of production discard of the value giving substance, human labor, over time; diminishing the human abstract labor necessary for the different products, and thereby slowly diminishing the amount of value that is produced in a economy, while at the same time capital being dependent upon valorization of value for its expansion, it will always try to subordinate the production process to the production of surplus value. So this process of transition to communism (free time) is not going to happen by itself, but capitalism is pregnant with the seed of communism, as they say, and this is where it is most obvious. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall bears with it the possibility to absolve the value-structure dominating people in capitalism.

    When Marx talk about the contradiction between mode of production and relations of production, he is referring to the contradiction between the use-value dimension and the value dimension; i.e. as the mode of production is further developed, it slowly diminishes the value giving substance – that is direct labor time – needed to produce a certain amount of commodities. So the production of material wealth gets more and more detached from the promotion of value – it is this very contradiction that the tendency for the rate of profit to fall is a symptom of. So as capitalism progresses, there within rise the possibility of alleviate people of work, but since valorization of value is a systematic compulsion in order to reproduce capitalism, it won’t happen by itself, instead capital will try to increase the extent of, and multiply the markets. Although some Marxists believe that we have reached a point where capital have trouble expanding any more, not being able to absorb much more value-giving-substance (that is abstract labor) into its mode of production (see Robert Kurz, and Claus Peter Ortlieb, in Larsen et al.)

    II. The debate: ”green” growth vs. zero-growth – or a false dichotomy?

    I in no way identify myself as green, or at least not to a high extent. In my view, greens tend to embrace leftish ideas while at the same time advocate capitalism between the lines – or we have the other end of the green spectrum, which leans more towards the anarcho-primitivism, or “back-to-feudalism” kind of greens. I also find them having serious problems differentiating between individuals and the system, and they often end up putting the load on individuals for social change (like individual responsibility for shopping ecological cultivated food and so on). They really don’t get the relational and dialectic way of thinking, and tend to think too much in simple causalities. Since many of my friends being greens I encounter these ideas all the time. But I do appropriate some ideas from them that I believe may be very fruitful in developing further in Marxian lines, or find ideas that would be greatly enhanced or could be explained by Marx. I also don’t have the very simplistic zero-growth / green growth dichotomy approach that I may have led you to believe in earlier posts; growth isn’t anything per se, but a result of a certain kind of process of development – it’s a byproduct of capital accumulation, and depending on how the process of accumulation unfolds, and the mode of production that supports it, the result (growth) will have different environmental impacts. It may also be fruitful to separate between “development” and “growth”, usually they are seen as tantamount, which is perhaps not so odd since in capitalism, development presupposes growth, or development is a byproduct of growth in capitalist society, thereby the growth fetish of equaling growth to development becomes understandable. Development concerns social welfare and well-being rather than simply quantitative increases in material wealth. My conception of growth and development doesn’t lead me to, like many greens, take a hostile attitude towards technology and modernity. I would argue that capitalisms demise will be its dependence upon growth for stability and reproduction, and the success of the post-capitalist (dare I hope for a communist?) society must be able to survive without being dependent upon growth for its reproduction; the process of production must be controlled, regulated, by the people themselves, rather than by systemic imperatives. When we can control the developmental process like that, I believe the dichotomy between growth / no-growth absolves, then it becomes possible to on a rational basis regulate the metabolism between society and nature. Ideally it would become possible to appreciate the scope of developmental opportunities and growth, within the natural bounds, on the basis of the then existing mode of production, the efficiency of its technology and so on. Growth would be a result of a conscious decision rather than systemic imperative.

    I don’t really know your conception of growth in communism, perhaps you view it in similar terms that I do, in that case this following critique is directed at a straw man. But if you see it as an essential part for the reproduction of society, just as in capitalism, then the following critique, or rather problematization, is very much directed towards you. And also I wonder what really would differentiate communism from capitalism if growth was to be the foundation of both societies? Wouldn’t that mean that something alike capital, and the value-structure, would still be exercising its rule upon society and dominate it to its laws of motion?

    The admin earlier charged me for thinking in “simplistic” terms and “un-dialectical” – and rightly so, I suppose, judging by the standard of my earlier posts (although I hope that this reply will have proven the opposite) – but the same critique goes for you, patrickm, who portrays the growth-environment dynamic in very linear and simplistic terms. But maybe that doesn’t have so much to do with your thinking, as of more to do with the standard of the posts (my earlier posts) that you were replying to?

    However, in this part of the post I will just somewhat comment on different subjects you lifted, without any strict red thread going through it.

    I consider myself pretty well read into the different sides of the environment-growth debate (although I haven’t read the piece you linked by Julian Simon, it seems like an interesting read, I will look further into it, but as of now in order to be able to reply relatively soon I will save it for later – maybe something for my masters – but it appears to hold arguments I’ve encountered before) and I still hold that the debate on the relation of growth and environment is in general not in favor for so called “green growth”. That’s why I would argue that Harvey, as well as Foster, isn’t totally off track when discussing zero-growth – although there are other topics in which I find myself in disagreement with Harvey and Foster, like their dismissal of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and Fosters vague political stance that seems to be more towards the greens than reds, but I don’t know really. They are far from my favorite Marxist scholars, me myself is more fond of the german wertkritik (value critical) school of thought (Robert Kurz, Claus Peter Ortlieb, Norbert Trenkle, Ernest Lohoff to name a few), whose critical theory, in my view, is more adequate in understanding “late capitalism”. Anyway, enough with the off-topic stuff. Returning to the issue of “green” growth.

    Growth depends upon an accelerating throughput of energy and materials, the load of throughput can of course be alleviated by higher efficiency in use of energy and materials, but here the first “barrier” of endless growth is encountered, known as the Jevons paradox, after Stanley Jevons – later “rediscovered” as the rebound effect. Between 1750-1990 the productivity of labor was raised 200-fold, and since the late 20th century we’ve seen comprehensive increases in efficiency – de-materialization, de-carbonization, lowered energy intensity per GDP-unit – but these increases in efficiency is totally overshadowed by the increased scale of industrial production (McNeill). This phenomenon of the rebound effect is due to increases in efficiency giving a higher capacity to produce, which lowers the price of commodities and ancillary resources such as energy and what not, giving the capitalist more market shares, therefore a higher demand is fostered. Efficiency here equals raising the supply of a given resource. Efficiency gives capital an increased scope to grow into; it is used to further promote capital formation, extend the quantity of commodities produced and so on. John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York argue the Jevons paradox is due to a economic system whose goal is to maximize profit, which also happen to maximize throughput of energy and resources. In that case of expansion occurring in communist society, then if the productivity, or efficient use of resources, outweighs the expansion of products produced etc., no growth actually occurs, since efficiency > expansion, i.e. we have a net-saving of resources, or in other words: we don’t actually increase the claim on resources, just use existing ones more efficient. Capital would use that efficiency to further expand and go beyond the known resource base, this need not be the case in communism.

    It is, as you say, very unlikely that we will ever run out of resources per se, just stop extracting different resources when the cost of extraction gets to high – which often have been the driving motive behind revolution in transport- and extraction technology, which works to push the costs down again, making it once again feasible to extract these high cost resources – and try to find substitutes. Economies of scale creates diseconomies of space:

    “Economies of scale lower the unit cost of production by producing more units, which generally requires expanded investment in larger, stronger machines so that the total cost is increased to achieve a lower cost per unit produced. Such economies of scale, though, creates diseconomies of scale. Expanded production transform greater volumes of more different types of raw materials. Increasing the amounts and types of matter transformed requires procuring it and transporting it across greater distances.” (Bunker & Ciccantell, p3)

    These diseconomies of scale generates transport economies of scale, which enables more raw materials from more distant sources to be exploited. But this expansion and development in better machines also bring forth a tendency where more specific and highly concentrated types of metal is required.

    “Resistance to intense heat and to heavy pressures requires alloys of specialty metals available in few places … Expansion, intensification, diversification, and more precise specification combined to make new technologies increasingly dependent on more and larger uniformly higher-grade deposits of raw materials across broader spaces.” (Bunker & Ciccantell, p10)

    And since this have to happen on an increasingly larger scale – in order to stabilize the reproduction of society – it will also damage natural habitats and ecosystems, thus worsen the performance of the eco-services that is needed for our survival, this is unavoidable in extraction. So the big problem isn’t necessarily the stock of resources (although it may get harder over time to satisfy society’s need), but the indirect damages that extraction will bring about on our life supporting ecosystems, and their ability to assimilate and absorb waste. But there are some key resources that in fact are being depleted that we really can’t substitute, and which becomes a bigger problem as capital accumulation expands; such as top soils, forests, coral reefs, fresh water. Many resources that are renewable, such as forests, is being used up faster that in can regenerate. In order for not trampling over these resources, wasting them to nothing, we need to rid of the growth imperative. All economic activity imply environmental harm, but since the growth process is a must in capitalism, it probably going to lead to an environmental collapse in many respects. In communism the very point is to not being dependent upon growth as a systemic imperative; in communism the idea is that I would be easier to weigh the “utility” of a certain economic activity with the “disutility” in the environmental harm it brings about. Growth is democratized.

    It is also important to remark upon the fact that fossil fuels have been key for the process of capital accumulation to reach the levels it have claimed today, was it not for fossil fuels we wouldn’t have been able to breach the natural barriers to growth – and we would still be “tied down” by the so called “Malthusian trap” (see Wrigley; Malm). I’m not saying that it will be impossible to switch to another (preferably renewable) energy carrier, but I do believe it will be a tough challenge for renewable energy technologies to keep up with continuous, endless growth.

    While we are talking about energy I can mention that there is also certain thermodynamic limits to how much you can recycle; recycling always entail loss, as well as in the production process. There is also the human factor, some people just don’t give a damn about recycling, but the problem is, once again, not with individuals; I’m not saying that individuals should carry the load and recycle and so on, the big polluters and creators of waste are big companies and governments, that contribute to about 99% of all waste in the world (Foster, Clark, York). But most importantly: There is also thermodynamic limits to how much you can raise the efficiency of certain technologies and systems, thereby barriers dictated by laws of physics over how much you could alleviated the environmental burden of growth.(look at links below) (this is a Swedish article about the thermodynamic limits of efficiency, perhaps you could make some sense out of it through Google translate, if not then this article is in turn based on the following blog post by the physicist Tom Murphy: see also: and ).

    For me, the most interesting thing is not what incredible things we can do with technological capacity – the “hardware” – but rather the way we use the “software”, i.e. how we organize technology in a way that benefit all. Maybe the 3D-printing technology would be able to abolish much wage labor as well as need for money, private property and such? I remain hopeful in this regard. (I just came to think about this movement I was into in my teens, The Zeitgeist Movement, and “the Venus project.” I recall them having some illuminating ideas about organizing productive forces in a “open source” manner.)

    When it comes to your remark about improving environmental conditions, the reason for patterns of improving environments, mainly in the west (or “core”, to use a world-system-theoretical concept), is essentially a result of environmental load displacement – that is, countries in the “center of the world-system” improve their environment by outsourcing polluting activities, such as industries and extraction, to the “peripheries of the world-system”. Alf Hornborg have written some interesting texts regarding this phenomenon (se his The Power of the Machine), about how technology becomes the very institution that (re)distribute time- and space resources between core and periphery; efficiency measures taken in shortening (labor) time and diminishing necessary (ecological) space in the center is done at the expense of the time and space resources in the peripheries; countries in the “core” of the world system thereby displace the appropriation of time and space to the peripheries. Hornborg have mixed explanations of whether or not this dynamic of technology is first and foremost a mirror image of the logics of money, i.e. capital – which I believe is the main cause – or whether it’s due to the “nature” of technology itself, that this form of domination is inherent in technology – which I believe is a misapprehension.

    John Bellamy Foster have developed the dimension of Marx where he emphasizes how capital creates a metabolic rift between town and countryside, siphoning the nutriments out of the soil as capital accumulation expands. This is also an effect of the logics of capital, which today can be extended to the whole global economy / ecology, as capital creates a global division of labor where core countries appropriate the resources (labor, energy, matter) of the peripheries. John Bellamy Foster mentions that Marx also had in mind that communism also would imply a conscious regulation and administration of the metabolism between nature and society in “rational” ways.
    I’m not very interested in the alleged ”population problem” of environmental issues, since it is a false debate; it’s not people that’s unsustainable, it’s the system that structures peoples way of interacting with nature in unsustainable ways. For example, the theoretical population level we are able to sustain with the given agricultural lands (5 billion hectares) is, according to Kenneth Hermele, considerable. He has shown that if all of earths inhabitants would adhere to a vegan diet (dieting on a lower trophical level) – of course a totally fictional scenario – we would approximately be able to grow food for a population of between 25-33 billion people. So in theory population is not the problem, at least not when it comes to food production. In this regard I believe we may have reached a point of agreement.

    Materially many have it much better today, yes, but this can also be discussed, it depends on the method of measurement and so on. The material improvement that is taking place in China, which is nothing to belittle, but they distort the measurement of “real” inequality in the world (see Branko Milanovic who is an authority on inequality matters; in the latest reports on inequality he’s written, he argues that global inequality have in fact risen lately – but as always you have to differentiate between relative and absolute numbers – but this is a whole other debate I believe). Although people live longer lives (but I do wonder how the picture looks like in underdeveloped and industrializing countries, which must show a much more mixed image) there is still an epidemic spreading when it comes to stress related diseases and conditions, which is very much an effect of new patterns of exploitation in capitalism society.

    In summation, I can’t see how endless growth would be an essential part in a communist future – although, as I stated above, the growth / no-growth debate is a false dichotomy, which I in this respect helped reproduce when I initiated the discussion. And I don’t buy the whole “infinite resources and technological possibilities” argument, that is ridiculous to have such an unproblematized attitude towards the whole question. Finally, I don’t see why Marx needs to be read like that? In fact I find it very unlikely that Marx had an ontologically growth oriented conception about communism. And if you see communism as ontologically growth oriented, then I guess we can agree to disagree.

    Some references:
    Alf Hornborg – the power of the machine

    Andreas Malm – the origins of fossil capital (article, try google it, maybe it pops up)

    Kenneth Hermele – Land matters ( )

    Wrigley – energy and the English industrial revolution

    McNeill – Something is new under the sun

    Hermal Daly & Joshua Farley – Ecological economics

    Stephen Bunker & Paul Ciccantell – Globalization and the race for resources

    Moishe Postone – Time, labor and social domination (somewhat, informally, related to the wertkritik school; )

    John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, Richard York – the Ecological Rift (also John Bellamy Foster’s book “Marx’s ecology”, may be of interest, although me myself haven’t read it, here follows a link to the latter: )

    Larsen et al – Marxism and the critique of value (in here you can find some text from the foremost adherents of the wertkritik school of thought – Claus Peter Ortlieb, Robert Kurz, Norbert Trenkle, Roswitha Sholtz – which rarely get translated from German; )

    Karl Marx – Capital v.1-3; Grundrisse; Critique of the Gotha Program; Wage labor and cpaital

  61. 61 patrickm

    Alexander; I won’t criticise you for your 7240 word contribution, I once employed a similar approach and it worked very well for my purposes, though I had to persist with more specific contributions to really draw people out on where they stood and why. In the end (though the content will no doubt shock you) it became a useful record, and as you will see people who have been involved in cults and sects for decades have difficulty in being open, honest, and above board, and I don’t think you do. So the article length comment is – while not conventional and badly executed and annoying in your case – IMV useful.

    Just a wild guess on my part, but I will bet you are no longer involved in any ‘socialist’ sect and I doubt you ever spent a decade in the ISO or whatever it was you ran into where you live?

    Though our understanding is currently miles apart I’m not going to despair at that because most of the issues that you’ve brought up are commonly lurking just behind the eyeballs of most western people – both those who think themselves of the left and otherwise. Most hold to these views without ever testing their own understanding with such a hostile audience and thus they discredit both themselves and the left. So as far as I am concerned well done for having such a red hot go.

    What I will say after reading ALL of your contribution is that you ought to edit more to focus our conversation and we will make faster progress if we nail just a few crucial points. For example I’m glad that you are ‘not very interested in the alleged ”population problem”’. I guess you are not a vegan (I couldn’t care less if you are provided you have no desire to see such ideas made compulsory or via methods such as carbon taxing meat made more expensive to pay the ‘externality costs’) but as even keeping cows comes up now when people talk about global warming and as I think that the carbon issue will pop up pretty quickly I’ll just note for now that the Vegetarians have taken to advertising that there is a three-way split power/transport/livestock to this greatest of all environmental threats now referred to as climate change.

    I’m going to be brutal in chopping out secondary issues to keep us focused, but if you feel that ANYTHING that has been set aside is better addressed then refer me back to the points and I’ll respond. I have no interest in dodging anything and you will never be thrown out of here for telling the truth as you see it.

    Don’t worry about it being an ‘emotional outburst’ that got you going BECAUSE there is much in the thinking that we have developed that will upset you, and as I have seen some very strange behaviour on several occasions previously, I seriously suggest that you breathe deeply and keep up your open attitude and just keep delving into the collections of debates and so forth that we are able to point towards. Plenty of this stuff has already been well aired here, but not in a systematic manner that I can just put before you as either one book or even one shelf of books.

    None of the contributors to this site are fond of state-capitalists or neo-feudalists and no matter how muddled I think you currently are I can tell you that your efforts to engage are appreciated by me. To get a feel for how long term and extensive that lack of fondness has been going with us you could look at articles like Technology and Progress Oct 1979 where an almost full argument against your current position was presented over 35 years ago.

    Then there is Bright Future; Red Politics 1; and 2; Unemployment and Revolution; and there is plenty else that has been said over the years in a broad rage of threads both at Lastsuperpower and Strangetimes as well as sites where the comments were usually the only thing worth reading like Kasama (the last comment before I was quietly banned from commenting in the way that sects carry on saying one thing and doing another and The North Star and Lavartus Prodeo (all sites that are now moribund from the exhaustion of their world views).

    To focus on just how far apart we are, consider hunter gatherer generations progressing into the neolithic revolution and then that revolution producing the great advance of the slave society. Some people that think themselves very red indeed don’t reflect on that progress.

    I have not read Illich Rubin, J B Foster nor Moishe Postone but I will say you can’t be a commie and advocate zero-growth, even for the very distant future let alone as some kind of issue for the 21st C and I think it mind boggling that people 50 and 100 yrs ago worried about humans becoming too wealthy and using up the world etc..

    For these purposes let’s define wealth as the means to travel.

    In the old days hunter gatherers didn’t get around much and took thousands of years for descendant generations to get around the globe. It got so bad being eaten by neighbours that they had to invent agriculture. Up in Papua New Guinea every other valley has a whole different language as a result. It is staggering that agriculture has been practiced so long there, as stone age peoples’ without any measurable change and that so many of the world’s languages are on that tiny part of the globe but there you go if you hunted very far you became the prey with ‘long pork’ regularly eaten up till WW2 and occasionally beyond! Mind blowing!

    There was a little development for humanity with the progress of slave owning – slaves at least didn’t get eaten – and we managed to see the travels of Genghis Khan, the Romans and Egyptians, yet not one of these populations knew of let alone visited Australia.

    Travel opened up a bit with feudalism opening humanity to the risky business of exploration until a handful of bedraggled survivors made it round the world, and the European world – the world of Newton and Galileo discovered where I live. Now a mere couple of hundred years later we have capitalism enabling proletarians from Australia to travel around the world as a matter of choice. Well that’s when it’s all going well for the capitalists in the up phase of the cycle – that really does go over to crisis as part of its normal functioning. That has got to be a doomed system if ever there was so there is the massive contradiction. On the one hand systems that could last for tens of thousands of years with nothing much changing and then this explosive system that has produced proletarians with an entire world to win from the owning classes.

    But once we get that ownership issue sorted then if humanity is to move beyond Proxima Centauri and remember that’s just the closest other star then we have a bit of wealth to generate! We are very poor indeed. We are going to require a bucket load of growth to get to be that wealthy. This is how I spelt out my thinking at an Australian blog Larvatus Prodeo(now closed).

    ‘Let me try to simplify.

    Picture a graph that situates a 50yr old in the centre; to the left and down is a 75yr old, to the right and up is a 25yr old, at the very top is her new born baby, and at the bottom is the 100yr old. So we have a diagonal line from left to right ascending as living standards have over the last 100 years through 5 generations.

    The dramatic trend line is what our standard of living has been doing. This means that the price of commodities like power and petrol has continued to fall. So have air-fares and everything else as they were invented and came on stream.

    That baby has a better chance of leading a long and healthy life than the four before her, and it is very difficult to find a 75 year old that is not aware that their parents had it much tougher and that they owe their own standard of living to the work of their parents, and so on backwards, and what’s more that their kids have had it better than them from their 75yr efforts to build on what had been handed down.

    Every measure I care to think about has refuted the thinking that has infected liberals since Carson started spreading the green poison that ought to have peaked in foolishness with the 1968 Population Bomb.

    That book was no doubt read and ‘loved’ by many older people that currently think greens have something useful to say about the way the world works. If you want a good laugh about what alarmists have been (and really still are) on about have a look at it; now there are just too many people apparently and we are consuming the planet. Of course Ehrlich lost the famous bet against Julian Simon. We are heading to the 50th anniversary of Ehrlich’s best seller, and it is clear that junk Malthusians like him have been refuted by practice and what’s more that trend is not going to turn around.

    So, it is quite something to watch these same older alarmists raving about what this generation is leaving for the next, and the equally revolting carry on of greenie youngsters claiming that this or that must be done because really the world belongs to them no less and that other generations (that have helped build the standard) are not really doing this but are actually destroying their world! We are (unlike our parents or grandparents) destroying the future. We are using stuff up not producing stuff. It’s just the same old pathetic green twaddle.

    Naturally, they want a decent hospital made with steel and cement, while naming the steel and cement makers as not the standard of living producers, but the big polluters!

    Naturally, they want a tractor and a header not a horse drawn rig that those of 75 can possibly recall from the era of the last great capitalist depression. But the industrialized society that produces these wonderful hunger smashing machines is condemned as nothing more than wasteful consumerist society.

    The hunger that was so common as to not even be reported 75yrs ago is still around but in smaller proportion in Somalia etc., but is that youngster out campaigning for faster industrialization to rid the world of it? No.’

    Do they even know of hero’s like Norman Borlaug? No, they are busy listening to the fear mongering greens and have never heard of the likes of Julian Simon and have never read Lomborg and almost all marched to keep Saddam Hussein in power! They won’t read ‘right’ wingers let alone grasp what shoulders proletarian revolutionaries are standing on.

    The law of wealth is the law of travel. Either you can do it or you can’t. Genghis Khan couldn’t fly to Bali for a couple of weeks R & R. Wealth enables something else to be ‘actually going on’.

    In ridiculously poor ‘pre-capitalist societies things were usually not produced for exchange, and therefore weren’t split into these two dimensions.’ Genghis just took what he wanted and killed whomever he chose. Thankfully capitalism developed and swept away all the old crap, that only fools think of as the good old days. Yet that is not saying very much in the 2nd decade of the 21st C! Thankfully humans are more globally interdependent! Thankfully we are being ‘deskilled from our black-smithy past, and now we only choose to do such things for a bit of fun and we skill up as quick as anything by looking on the net if we want to do it!

    But we still have the likes of Putin so we are not that far down from the trees and that is depressing.

    Under the current system capitalists own the world and we proletarians just work for them when they require us. We end up being ragged trousered philanthropists. When the propertyless overthrow that state of affairs we ‘workers’ will have the means of production at our unlimited disposal. Naturally, the day after the revolution it will carry on as capitalism without the capitalists, but that is not how it will keep going as we make more revolution against those that try to stop the progress at whatever level suits them. The revolution of the proletariat is all about abolishing itself as a property-less class of workers. Revolution will give us the opportunity to engage in what will be ‘life’s prime want’.

    Thankfully humanity has reached the pathetic level where ‘individuals are compelled to produce and exchange commodities in order to survive.’ At a level that is spectacularly better than even a lousy 100 years ago. But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Currently proletarians do ‘well if employed and do miserably if they can not find a member of the owning classes to exploit them. Hunger (still real in the third world but no longer for food in the west but rather for modest levels of dignity – actually in the west the poor often have weight problems but that problem of affluence is common across all classes) still compels, and small wonder when ‘Capitalist social relations and alienated structures are identical.’

    Thankfully the proletarian revolutionary transformation will have no end and the new will always supplant the old.

    But what is on Alexander’s mind is ‘the destruction of nature’, and from my POV even under capitalism the planet is transparently NOT getting worse. Humans are not destroying this planet. Of course when we proletarians control the means of production we will still ‘alienate’ some very big part of our production from ourselves directly in order to make OUR ‘investments’, including in choosing to have an even better environment and cultural activity – that is evidently what humanity does as it gets wealthier. Choices are part of the work of the owning classes. They are doing it now!

    Obviously ‘Capitalism is a systemic compulsion to create surplus value, which results in certain modes of growth and production, waves of innovation and “creative destruction” – and crises – while all the time prols only work here and the owning classes make all the decisions in their historically specific institutions. But because you have grasped that ‘capital will continue to exists to the extent that these institutions prevail’ I will set aside your confused thoughts about: money; comprehensive division of labor; the creation of a proletariat; abandoning animism; a new conception of time and your further confused thought about growth.

    The day after ‘the’ revolution capitalism ‘will continue to exists to the extent that these institutions prevail’ and we will have to start to change that with all the back and forth that is implied by such a step beyond what is known to have worked but MUST be at that point failing the vast bulk of humanity otherwise a revolution would not be underway. Capitalist crisis not capitalist boom brings on more than just a class reaction from the class that is left on the outer. The boom shows what is possible and builds a society of gravediggers. Capitalism will not function globally in the coming crisis and quite extraordinary measures will have to be taken to make ‘stuff’ function. Extraordinary measures are being taken by G20 type political formations right now as even the first GFC required a collective response that as we see with Greece etc., is not ended and capitalism now on the rebound upwards. The rot has set in, and is now spreading very wide and has even hit Australia known for many years as the lucky country.

    Now I want to deal with what is on your mind. Specifically ‘Higher productivity should first and foremost promote free time…’ I prefer to say ‘life’s prime want’ is the issue. You can lie longer on a beach if you want to. Australians regularly do. Others ‘work’ on their own account. That’s how the Swan river settlement failed as you will recall from the last chapter of Vol 1 of Capital. As soon as they could work on their own account they did. So the owning classes had to solve their problem. That chapter in Capital is very instructive and as it happens I live in the city that is the actual result of ‘the modern theory of colonisation’ put forward by Wakefield.

    Because revolutionaries will work on our own account growth is a given. There will be nothing to stop us even as you choose to take longer walks on the beach. so ‘..the case of growth occurring IS a result of a consciously made decision. No matter how many choose the beach those that do research and consequently further production WILL get staggering results as we have seen with the ‘communist’ projects of software developments and of the internet. It’s merely a byproduct of revolution. Your “bourgeois lefty” will spend more time on both your local beach and on beaches as far afield as Fiji and the Bahamas while others like me choose research and discovery and the explosive productivity it implies.

    Growth IS ‘something unproblematic and inherently good.’ ‘the issue here is about how to understand growth as something that is produced by the logic of human activity and not capitalism that far from pushing us on recklessly – too fast and in a wasteful binge direction that future generations will pay the price of – is holding humanity back. Capitalism just looks GOOD in comparison with the past and that is scary for reactionaries (and greens are reactionaries) but it is pathetic compared to the future.

    Production ‘…depends rather on the general state of science and on the progress of technology’

    ‘In capitalist development, a glimpse appears’ of material progress!

    ‘…his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth.’ enabling as many as like to choose the beach while those that choose to explode the wealth available to us do so. Thus music becomes free on the internet and it once cost a lot of money to buy a ‘record’. Video’s and DVD’s came and went while all the while the beaches stayed as well used as ever they had become and they weren’t used much 100 years ago.

    Capitalism is heading into a massive global crisis and we proletarians have nothing ready made to replace it but we know that development ensures that ‘ the artistic, scientific etc. development of the individuals in the time set free produces even more. Just like the general wonder of how our universe emerges from a singularity in a ‘magic pudding’ sort of way.

    Capital itself produces ‘conditions to blow this foundation sky-high.’ during crisis not during the growth phase; that growth phase points the way and even sets part of our course.

    ‘…as the mode of production is further developed,[thankfully and obviously] it slowly diminishes the value giving substance – that is direct labor time – needed…’ this is what humans have been doing (slowly) since we became humans.

    Some people always believe that we humans have reached a point where capitalism has trouble expanding any more and have always been shown to be wrong as real problems then shatter their world like the last great depression and WW2. This ‘rapidly’ brewing global capitalist crisis (it seems glacially slow to me) is producing mass global unemployment bottlenecks as millions of people are now in motion right around the globe yet the green world view is busy worrying themselves sick that humans are destroying the planet.

    The fact is that people lead longer and healthier lives and you ought to consider the magic washing machine Do yourself a favor take a break and go to the magic washing machine now.

    You can’t see how endless growth would be an essential part in a communist future but you might if you could see how difficult it would be for you to try to stop us – who want to – from working while you are enjoying yourself on your travels to various beaches! Working has consequences. Growth in the future won’t be much of a choice as the science we do and the technology we employ simply smashes the past that our activities all stands on. Even on those beaches work is often done with mobile devices and we have become very productive even as we travel.

    After the revolution no capitalist business cycle will get in the way of the new ‘owners’ of the means of production. Growth is a result of a conscious decision to invest effort and with robots like driver-less vehicles and so forth that is not about just keeping people working away at menial tasks. Lower end work is actually being abolished even now. Now days whole factories produce all night with no or few human in sight of the production and this has only been the case for a few years. We can’t possibly think that in 1,000 years problems of capitalism and issues of unemployment and underemployment will not have been addressed. I think we are going to have to address these issues as this round of capitalist crisis unfolds but I have thought that for 35 yrs! They are problems of a system of employment. Abolish employment and we get rid of the problems associated with it.

    Growth has never been the ‘foundation’ of anything. Capitalism has like feudalism before it released a little more of humanities productive capacities but that is all it has managed because the proletariat (the vast mass of humanity now) only works here when the owning class wants us. Bright Future discusses issues of allocation of resources and thats a necessary job currently attended to by the capitalists (or much more often now those they get to stand in for them) as they try following the ‘blind forces of the market’.

    There are no ‘natural bounds’ to human development – simple as that.

    Alexander you are doing a degree and you know of Ehrlich and understand that his population worries that enabled him to have a runaway bestseller as people nodded stupidly to their reflected views are wrong; and yet don’t know of Simon and the bet! You know of Lomborg but it was Simon that caused him to rethink his views. You really ought to read his – green – book the Skeptical Environmentalist as you desperately need to get a shock to your system of beliefs over the whole scope of the ‘litany’ – absorbing waste, soils, forests, coral reefs, freshwater. Lomborg made such a huge impact with his 1997 book because he took these issues head on in all the detail that you could want. A book that reviews his work in 2017 – 20yrs later – will be a powerful refutation or vindication and I know that the 10yr reflection was vindication despite the feeble bleating from global warming (now climate change) alarmists. That 20 yrs is an important period to reflect on as will be the yr later 50th anniversary of the population bomb! What an embarrassment. You can be sure that there will not be a fiftieth anniversary reprinting trumpeting it’s hugely predictive power!

    Whatever greens think humans always ‘go beyond the known resource base’ and they will in the future. This is all discussed at length by Simon. Practice has and will continue to refute green resource limitations fears. Nevertheless you are not even aware of this very old debate, because as we see you mostly worry about ‘the indirect damages etc of the ‘litany’ Patrick Moore can disabuse you of your ‘forests, is being used up faster that it can regenerate’ notions.

    It is strange of you to think that growth will be democratised and optional in the future when only the people involved in production will take an interest and those on the beach will enjoy their swims and walks. Naturally it would be easier to weigh the “utility” of a certain economic activity with the “disutility” in the environmental harm it brings about but the precautionary principle will not get to 1st base. A ‘carbon’ tax to reverse history and make things more expensive will not get a guernsey either! That’s the current ways that standards of living are proposed to be slowed up and put in reverse to save the planet. In Australia we just saw bullies impose their carbon tax and the people saw to it that it was undone as soon as they had the democratic chance!

    It is true that were it not for firewood and steam engines and then ‘…fossil fuels we wouldn’t have been able to breach the natural barriers to growth – and we would still be stuck with sailing ships.’ so we upgrade to another energy as we go and this process will continue into the future as we continue to see energy get cheaper and cheaper.

    You say ‘the big polluters and creators of waste are big companies and governments’ and what I read is the big producers of my standard of living make electricity and fuel and steel and people build roads and houses and hospitals etc with the products that they deliver as we get about improving our environments! We are talking a different language

    Chatting about ‘environmental load displacement’ that is apparently ‘outsourcing polluting activities’, such as industries and extraction, when the real goal is to attack coal and oil use because the great threat is global warming is pathetic. Extraction from Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Canada etc “peripheries of the world-system” is a very bad joke. You would have to be thick not to actually work out where the mining is and how important it is!

    The whole point of progress IS shortening (labor) time and producing more for less!

    Choosing to increase recreational and ‘environmental’ spaces in the ‘center’ like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore (oh wait on that is not supposed to be happening) Britain, US, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Canada, all of Europe etc actually all advanced industrialised countries (a category that spreads decade by decade refuting the theory at the same rate) ‘is done at the expense of the time and space resources in the ‘peripheries’’. The old ‘imperialists ripping off the 3rd world’ trope repackaged for the unsuspecting.

    Development is now threatened by capitalist crisis NOT by industrialization. The environment in Syria is not threatened by development but by fascism.

    Capitalism has done what internationalists have always supported by bringing forth a ‘global market’ and this gets presented as only a ‘division of labor where core countries appropriate the resources (labor, energy, matter) of the peripheries.’ and the reality of the worlds transformation as many millions are pulled up from extreme poverty as industrial development and urbanisation spreads across the globe is not noticed as a demonstrable good. Instead we get ‘JB Foster’s ‘metabolic rift between town and countryside, siphoning the nutrients out of the soil as capital accumulation expands.’ and this sounds to me like a desperate attempt to fight against real progress.

    OK so ‘you don’t buy the whole “infinite resources and technological possibilities” argument, and still think ‘that is ridiculous to have such an unproblematised attitude towards the whole question.’ Fine glad to hear you think that as a throat clearing observation but it is NOT an argument and you ought to make one. Hans Rosling has some of the hard questions right up front for you to think about from the last 200 yrs of Capitalism and just the first attempts to lift humanity beyond it. You can think about the future while the washing machine does your clothes that came from China!

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