Happy Mothers Day! Many people have asked me if I’m still writing. The answer is yes! Right now, I’m working on a big article on the history of activism at my alma mater, Lehigh University. First, though, I’d like to post this email exchange I had with a reader – Gabriela Castillo from Australia.
GC – Was it at your intention to create endofcapitalism.com to educate your viewers to improve the current state of our economy under capitalism?
AK – I created the website The End of Capitalism in 2006, after I had written my Master’s Thesis on the subject at Lehigh University. My intention was, and remains to be, to explore the question of whether the global capitalist system is endangered by the combined social and ecological crises which capitalism itself has produced. My hypothesis is that it is.
GC – In what ways do you think capitalism is to blame for global warming?
AK – Global warming is a direct result of the massive, industrial, systematic combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. This systematic combustion of fuels provides the energy for the capitalist economy to function as it does. Coal combustion provides electricity, gas combustion provides heating, and oil combustion provides the transportation necessary to move the enormous quantity of goods and products which are pumped out of low-wage industrial centers in the Global South to consumers in the North.
Without fossil fuels, capitalism in its current form could not exist, which is why with Peak Energy looming, capitalism faces a very uncertain future. The only question, in my mind, is whether the capitalist economy will collapse fast enough or soon enough to avoid the most cataclysmic effects of global warming, which according to some scientists, could mean the end of the Earth as a livable planet. My hope is that this will be avoided, but only through a global democratic movement which re-orients society along the lines of social and ecological justice.
GC – Do you believe that mixed economies that have government involvement reduce the negative effects capitalism has in a social, economical and environmental aspect?
AK – So-called mixed economies, like Canada or Europe, can reduce some of the negative social and ecological effects of capitalism. This is fairly obvious if you look at the Gini coefficients, which measure inequality, of those countries as compared to the United States. Or if you notice for example in Germany or Spain where renewable energies like wind and solar make up a much larger share of their electricity production than the U.S. where coal remains king.
However, these measures are insufficient in at least 2 ways. First, because they still don’t fully empower the population to make democratic decisions about their resources, and how best to run their economy. Although Europe or Canada could be characterized as more democratic than the U.S. for example, they remain capitalist states, where corporations and the demands of the global market typically trump the less organized populace. Secondly, the position of those nations in the Global North remains predatory towards the majority of the world’s population in the Global South. They can provide great health care for their citizens and a high standard of living, but much of their wealth continues to flow in from much poorer nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and this context must not be forgotten.
GC – In your opinion who or what upholds capitalism?
AK – This is a fantastic question, and not one that can be answered sufficiently in short form. Nevertheless, I will try to make it short and sweet. I believe there is a two-fold process upholding capitalism – the same two-fold strategy which holds up every system of abuse or oppression. It is a combination of 1) violent, deadly force (including forced poverty) or what we could call “the stick”, and 2) a well-orchestrated system of distractions and illusions, coupled with selective economic rewards for conformity – what we could call “the carrot”.
The U.S. remains the police force of this system since World War II, with the U.S. marines, CIA, or others willing to step in to disrupt non-compliant nations around the world, along with an endless stream of media distractions and propaganda produced by Hollywood and the rest of the U.S. media machine to pollute the minds of people around the world.
It must be stated that as in any abusive or oppressive relationship, there is also the tragedy of a certain level of participation in the abuse / oppression by those who are being victimized. We divide ourselves, or allow ourselves to be divided, along racial, gendered, sexual, or other lines. We adopt the outlook and belief system of the capitalists. We succumb to addiction and self-isolation rather than face the daily trauma and suffering of the world as it is.
GC – You state that capitalism is already ‘dead’ and transformed it self into a ‘zombie-capitalism’ what do you mean by this, if capitalism is dead then why do we still endure it’s negative effects in our environment and society?
AK – I don’t know if capitalism actually died in 2008, and has now been replaced by zombie capitalism, or whether it merely suffered a shock or heart attack and is now operating as if it is back at full health. Either way, I do believe that further shocks will be coming, and the system will inevitably collapse in the face of social and ecological limits to growth.
If it is a zombie though, that doesn’t mean it can’t still hurt us, or even kill us. It remains just as dangerous, and needs to be taken out and replaced by a global democratic system based on social and ecological justice.