[Below are excerpts from Kevin Carson of the P2P Foundation responding to someone who claimed, “post-capitalism talk is largely Utopian fantasy”. I agree with the thrust of Kevin’s argument, capitalism faces collapse on a global scale – but the key social question of our age will not be “can capitalism survive?” but “what new social system(s) will outlive it?”
There are powerful forces seeking to deny us the possibility of relocalizing and democratizing our own economic networks, and which favor a re-nationalization of economic organization and a more brutal resource imperialism. In short, using the State to protect wealth and privilege from the economic chaos, commonly referred to as fascism. Social change is not deterministic, we are faced with widely diverging paths. How we win this struggle and create a post-capitalist world worth living in is the subject of my work. – alex]
P2P Foundation, June 7, 2009.
Quotes by Kevin Carson.
I believe that within a generation we’re going to see a radical shortening of supply and distribution chains from Peak Oil, a combined relocalization of most production and an explosion of LETS and barter networks as official money and wage employment dry up for a major part of the population, and a collapse of the old corporate proprietors in the culture and software industries.
The growth of the financial sector compared to physical assets is a major symptom of the problem. Given corporate capitalism’s chronic tendency toward overproduction and overinvestment, you can’t invest the surplus in plant and equipment that will generate even more goods when people can’t consume existing output. So you pile up the surplus investment capital in a FIRE sector that only works until the ponzi scheme collapses.
[O]ne reason for the growth of the FIRE economy from the ’90s on was that the export of industrial capital had reached its limits as a strategy for solving the crisis of overinvestment. China is saturated with more industrial capital than there is a market for. And second, there’s not much future in shipping goods overseas from Chinese factories when fuel costs two or three–or more–times what it did this time last year.
Had oil stayed at its summer 2008 prices indefinitely, some 20% of airline routes would have shut down and a comparable percentage of long-haul trucks left the market. And this was indeed a “hiccup” compared to what we can expect from Peak Oil in the future. Even a supply shortfall of a few percent can cause prices at the pump to double. What can we expect when supply falls by half or two-thirds over the next generation? I expect we’ll see a total collapse of intercontinental supply chains except in vital minerals, and an order of magnitude of reduction of continental supply chains for most manufactured goods.
The factories in China and Vietnam will become useless for anything but producing goods for people in–well, in China and Vietnam. Production of spare parts and modular accessories will grow massively at the expense of production of new goods, and the growth in such production of spare parts and modular accessories will occur mainly in flexible manufacturing nets in relocalized industrial economies. In-season produce will be almost entirely relocalized by backyard gardening and market gardening, and a much larger percentage of our diets will be either in-season or canned local stuff.
We’re barely two years into the real crisis: two years from when real estate prices began to slide, a year from when Peak Oil first became a household word, and nine months since inventories and employment began a free-fall.
To say “everything’s OK so far” this early in the process is IMO about like saying, immediately after Alaric’s first repulse from the gates of Rome, “Well, the system’s still got a lot of life in it.” Or the old joke about the optimist who fell off a 100-story skyscraper and shouted to the people on the 99th floor, “OK so far!”
To say that things look good for capitalism except for Peak Oil is a bit like saying your uncle is just like your aunt except for his testicles.