nature's pantry

rakesh bhandari djones at
Sat May 4 19:54:17 MDT 1996

Re: the interest expressed in discussion of eco-socialism

According to Wm J Blake, it seems that Werner Sombart anticipated some
current concerns with entropy.  Blake discusses Sombart's critique of Marx
in relation to the credit cranks:

"Marx predicted torrents of wealth, once man was liberated from the
restriction on production caused by class dvision of society and the
consequent limitation of investment  to profits and of wages to
exploitation.  Yet today the 'social credit' critics have the 'crust' to
say that Marxian analysis was valid only for an epoch of scarcity, and that
today, for an economy of abundance, only changes in credit structure are
required. What Marx really holds is that wealth is constantly increasing
but value for each unit is being steadily cut down.

"The opposite rebuke to Marxians is made by Werner Sombart. He holds that
the great increase of production in the 19th centruy is a swindle; that it
relies on foolish societies stripping the coal mines and oil wells, etc.,
secreted for geological epochs, and utilizing them by squandering the
heritage of aeons in a few hundred years.  Socialism lies--there can be no
permanent increase in welfare.  Rather we are likely to become so poor as
to revert to a new barbarism when, like wicked children, we will have eaten
up all the jam in the pantry and discover we were not so clever after all,
and we would have been better off without the technicians."

Marxian Economic Theory and Its Criticism, 1939: 547

A few questions:

1) Where does Sombart make this argument? Any comments on Sombart's
criticism of the technicians?
2) Do new technologies require so little raw materials in their manufacture
and have they become so energy efficient in their operation that there is
no longer any long-term danger of resource depletion (we could use tax
credits and subsidies to diffuse this new technology)? Won't new technology
solve the ecological crisis (In his chilling concluding reflections in *The
Socialist Tradition:From Crisis to Decline* Carl Boggs doesn't think so, it
should be noted.)
3)While there were fears for example of an exhaustation of the world's oil,
there now seems to be a crisis of overproduction.  Are we really running
out? If "bottlenecks" do develop at some point, couldn't the real reason be
that investment in new resources had not been sufficiently profitable due
to the low prices resulting from the breakdown in cartels or from the rents
extorted by third world governments or that animal spirits of decadent
industrialists has simply dying out, instead of there being a real physical
shortage of non-renewable resources?
4) What kind of wealth would there be torrents of in socialism? Would we
come to understand wealth differently? Would socialism then be the result
of our struggle to meet new needs, to enjoy new forms of wealth--which
perhaps would not require widespread damage to the earth to enjoy?

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