Colonial Latin America (Louis)

Mark Jones jones118 at
Tue Jun 12 13:05:50 MDT 2001

Louis Proyect
> Leaving aside the question of whether this is actually feasible
> (and of course Mark Jones will have his own thoughts on this matter),

Now that you mention it (and I'm struggling to finish something right now so
apologise for not doing the qn justice) it not only isn't feasible to speak
of " substituting >for oil with alternative technologies, reconverting their
industries", as Julio does, it's Solowian, Samuelsonian, Rostowan nonsense
to mention substitutability when it comes to energy. Even Morry Adelman
doesn't talk any more about oil as a 'renewable, substitutable resource'.
Even Doug Henwood doesn't.

Either Julio is pulling our legs or he needs to take a vacation from these
lists and go do a little basic reading about oil depletion, energy economics
and entropy (not to speak of value theory, come to think of it). Not to
speak of rereading Lenin too, for that matter. Lenin, recall, was able  in
'Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism' -- even tho writing in  1916
when the world's economy was still coal and steam driven, and Big Oil was
still the future (now it's the past) -- to write about the marketing of oil
by US trusts and monopolies, ie, to home in on how the monopoly stage of
capitalism depended on the control of intrinsically scarce resources, above
all energy. I'd like to see anything any of us writes still look so good a
century from now. But if Lenin got the essential point 100 years ago,
there's no fucking excuse for Julio's intellectual laziness today, is there?

PS Julio might also go and look again at Liebigs Law of the Minimum:

Liebig's Law and the limits to growth

In 1842 an obscure professor of agronomy in the
German provincial town of Giessen, published a book in
English which would revolutionise agriculture. Marx
would say that Justus, Baron von Liebig (1803-73) was
‘more important than all the economists put together’.
Only one other natural scientist had as great an influence
on Marx, and that was the biologist Charles Darwin.
Liebig's discoveries put soil science on its modern
footing. He analysed plant photosynthesis and found
how plants fix nitrogen and carbon dioxide from the air.
The lab he set up pioneered work on artificial fertilisers.
By putting it on a scientific basis, he helped make
possible the capitalist agriculture which complemented
capitalist industry.

But Liebig himself was no great fan of capitalism. He
believed it led to a damaging divorce between man and
nature, and it was from Liebig's work that Marx drew the
conclusion that in the long run capitalist agriculture will
lead to falling yields, desertification and loss of

Even more than his work as a soil scientist, Liebig's
lasting achievement was to postulate that any complex
system is always limited by a single boundary condition.
Liebig's Law is fundamental to most modern ideas about
carrying capacity and the limits to growth. It states that
the productivity and ultimately the survival of any
complex system dependent on numerous essential inputs
or sinks is limited by that single variable in least supply.
Thus, the lack of any essential soil nutrient limits overall
soil fertility. The shortage of iron constrained
development of the English economy in the 18th century.

Removing such bottlenecks attracts resources on a scale
ultimately dependent only on the limits of the whole
economy and the available capital. But accumulation can
never eliminate bottlenecks entirely. Instead, expanding
economies which constantly transform their technical
basis, will always press against new limits to growth,
struggle to overcome them and sometimes succeed,
sometimes not.

Liebig's Law has proven fundamental to understanding
the cyclical dynamics of capitalist accumulation, but
what the Law points to is not the existence of external
limits to growth, as most environmentalists assume, but
to the limits which occur immanently, as a system's
dynamics evolve.

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