Stan Goff article

Mark Jones markjones011 at tiscali.co.uk
Tue Sep 3 04:58:20 MDT 2002


Stan, where did Pat Bond post his original article?

Where I think your ideas can be developed further is the relationship 
between high-entropy, highly advanced urban civilisation and imperialism; 
Hornborg is good on how civilisation exports its entropic waste to the 
devastated hinterland, and then imports low-entropy energy, adding to the 
devastation; this is the mechanism of combined and uneven development. Not 
sure I agree with you that Luxemburg got this idea before Lenin! But 
perhaps I misunderstood somehting there. This whole bundle of ideas is key 
to the political project of deconstructing the ideo-mystificatory 
apologetics that has the USA as the 'nation of last resort', of US 
exceptionalism, its special destiny etc. On the contrary, it is the whole 
problem for the rest of us, and the problem is that the hypertrophy of US 
capitalism has driven it into an accumulation crisis. They (the 
capitalists) experience this on their skins as the whips and scourges of a 
profits crisis, the workers as unemployment, but entropically-speaking what 
has happened is that the rate of entropy-production has begun to exceed the 
rate of complexity-growth. As long as complexity grows faster than entropy, 
the effects of entropy exported to the hinterlands (peripheries) is 
mitigated historically-speaking by the counter-effects of higher social 
productivity of labour. Increased productivity is the form of embedding 
better science and technology in the material product. Energy crises 
historically (there have been many, long before the fossil age) are the 
true indicators of a society which has become absolutely as well as 
relatively entropic. The burning for fuel of forest cover in the 
Mediterranean region was a primary reason for the collapse of the Roman 
Empire. Liebig formulated the principle of the bottleneck, where one single 
element in short supply eventually triggers the collapse of a whole 
entropic system; it can be soil-fertility which is falling, or the loss of 
woodland for fuel and raw material, which prejudiced 18th century English 
capitalism and was only overcome with the invention of the Newcomen engine 
for pumping water from deep coal pits. It can be shortages of hydrocarbons 
for which no realistic modern substitutes exist.

The crucial difference between entropic crises occurring in pre-capitalist 
societies and those occurring in capitalism is the that capitalism operate 
under a different law of accumulation, as Marx first discovered. Since the 
object of capitalist production is not the production of use-values  but of 
value, entropy-crises first of all assume a social rather than natural 
form. What I mean by this is that, in all previous commodity-producing 
societies, even when dominated by long-distance trade and large-scale 
mercantile capitals, the purpose of accumulation is not to expand 
production but to realise and then hoard or consume profits. Only 
industrial capitalism with its great new freedom deriving from fossil-fuel 
use, disclosed the possibility of seemingly-infinite expansion of 
production, and then immediately transformed this into an iron law which 
was effected thru competition; capitalists had to reduce costs and expand 
production or die thru competitive failure. Thus the purpose of production 
in each cycle was not to produce the necessaries of human life--commodities 
seen as use-values-- but instead it was to realise a larger sum of value to 
invest in production in the next cycle. Thus social production taken as a 
whole was no longer driven by need or demand for use-values, altho these 
now appeared in an unprecedented, cornucopian flood. The use-value of 
*capital* was profit, an expanded mass of value, realised thru the 
exploitation of labour-power. The metabolic process of capital acquired 
more existential force and urgency than the metabolic process of human 
beings who became its wage-slaves. Thus under industrial capitalism, the 
'domination of nature by society' seems completed: it is social laws and 
the iron necessity of capital accumulation and of the valorization process, 
which confront people with all the unpredictable force and implacable 
inevitability previously ascribed to the elemental forces of nature. Thus 
henceforth 'natural' crises were always socially-mediated. Hunger did not 
come from failed harvests, but from failed markets. Unemployment did not 
come from the higher oil prices caused by declining production, but from 
the same failed markets which could not accommodate successfully or in 
time, changes occurring at the level of the base, where complex 
cross-currents of exponential trends intersect in chaotic and 
self-reinforcing ways, sometimes producing runaway feedback processes.

Thus demographic change, minor climate changes, changes in the 
resource-base as some sources of supply dry up and others come on stream, 
concurrent, incidental or resultant wars, etc, are processes which the 
system has to accommodate to and overcome as part of the normal metabolism 
between 'society' (ie capital accumulation) and 'nature' (ie what is 
socially-epistemically constructed as 'external'). But these 
crisis-phenomena are not perceived directly by the capitalist system, but 
only indirectly, thru the mechanism of accumulation, and most important, 
thru the fall in the profit-rate and finally, valorisation crisis (taking 
the familiar forms of markets crashes, stocks tanking, banks collapsing, 
state bail-outs, dole lines, mortgage foreclosures etc). To the capitalist, 
what has happened is a profits crisis and what is needed is a restoration 
of profitability, by means of  a restructuring of the mode of production. A 
crisis forces restructuring of the working class, of the composition of 
labour, of the labour-process itself and of the relations of production: 
collapse of some capitals, concentration and centralization of other 
capitals, and finally, restructuring of the political superstructure and 
also the mechanisms and programmes of ideo-hegemony. The internal 
organisation of the state may need reform, but so may the entire 
international system also need reforming, so that the world market can 
begin to function again thru the crisis and post-crisis. The world market 
is the fundamental instance of the accumulation regime and the form of 
imperial hegemony is the political form and social instantiation of the 
accumulation-regime on a global level. Thus in late imperialism, the era of 
endemic rot, of systemic collapse--the endgame of the capitalist 
epoch--relative and absolute entropy is manifested both as a crisis of 
accumulation, a crisis within the world market, and as a specific crisis of 
US imperialism, a crisis of US world hegemony, resulting from the 
relatively much higher degree of entropy displayed by the US state, society 
and capitalism, compared to its less-entropic, more profitable, more 
productive competitors (China, Japan etc).

The imperialists both see and don't see, the real reasons for the crisis: 
the exhaustion of reserves, the addition overheads or 'faux frais' 
associated with the degradation of the environmental 'container' of 
capitalism; the problem of relative surplus population, which assumes 
increasingly Malthusian dimensions (Marx: 'The general law of population is 
the first and most important law of capitalist production'). Increasing 
entropy reveals itself as a crisis of efficiency, of seeming 
over-complexity, and of falling profits. This latter is what the capitalist 
really does 'see' and feel with every fibre of his being; lachrymose 
sentimentality may be appropriate for the fate of doomed species or of the 
pauperised 4 billion living in the Global South, but harsh and bitter 
indeed are the capitalist's feelings for the causes of *is* relative 
impoverishment: labour-militancy, risen Islam, the greed of the Arab, the 
deviousness of the Asian, etc etc (ie, the forms of struggle taken by the 
dispossessed which in a 'general' way this schizoid creature is humanely 
concerned for: cf conccrete examples of this, like Mark Moody-Stewart for 
for years as chairman of Shell, sat in silence while his minions wreaked 
havoc in the oilfields of Nigeria, but now is mincing around in 
Johannesburg wearing his new hat as chairman of a business for a 
sustainable environment NGO, where he can be seen nightly on the BBC waxing 
lyrical about the plight of sub-Saharan Africa and the need to look at 
renewables, worry about global warming etc.)

The general crisis of imperialism is first of all and above all a crisis of 
profits, and beyond that, a crisis of political legitimacy and of US global 
hegemony. This is as true for the Reds and the Greens as it is for 
capitalists themselves. Their crisis is our crisis, as long as they have 
the power and we live in their state. It is therefore, not a crisis tout 
court of 'the environment or of 'debt relief' or of global warming or 
gene-contamination, or lack of oil or water; it is a crisis of the 
imperialist state.

In Wilhelmine Germany (pre 1914) they called it 'Griff nach der Weltmacht', 
the pursuit of world-power. 'All power to the state, and to one state all 
the power!' was the motto of Kaiser Germany and is today the motto of Bush 
America. It is a slogan which results from the mystified form of appearance 
in the capitalist brain of the desire to overcome the workings of the 1st 
and 2nd laws of thermodynamics--by importing energy, and exporting entropy. 
(Even the water crisis, btw, is at bottom only another form of the energy 
crisis).

But the more they succeed, the more they manage to super-exploit the rest 
of the world and to privilege the unique predominance, power and productive 
weight of the US capitalist economy--they more aggressively the feed the 
fire of entropy and the more sharply they intensify the underlying crisis. 
Ten years of unparalleled growth have done nothing to resolve US problems 
and everything to exacerbate them and to further sharpen the global, 
general crisis of capitalism. This is the most acute crisis of industrial 
capitalism in its entire 300-year history. Trapped in a fatal 
historico-entropic impasse, US imperialism can find no policies which do 
not worsen the underlying crisis.

Undoubtedly the US ruling class--an amalgam of military and political 
elites with monopoly and finance capital-- will continue with its ongoing 
attempts to restructure the global accumulation regime. Victory in the Cold 
War was only the beginning. They whetted their appetites but did not slake 
their thirst by plundering socialism. They carved up and redistributed the 
Balkans almost as an afterthought. They are intent on carving up and 
redividing the Middle East and North Africa in the same way. Temporary 
political isolation, the result of the blunderings of the Bush regime, will 
surely be corrected. They will continue to press ahead on all fronts, with 
the political reconstruction of alliances and coalitions of interest, and 
with the huge scope of military preparations, until they are confident of 
achieving both short term and longterm aims.  The intention is to carve up 
the Persian Gulf region and to ensure a stable decades-long exploitation, 
under US dominance but with the active participation of European, Russian 
and Asian interests, of the last great hydrocarbon reserves on the planet, 
almost all of which are located in the Arabian Peninsula.

The heart of global entropy--which is also the beating heart of the 
imperialist beast--is the US security state. This comprises all the civil, 
military, security and secret agencies--CIA, FBI, NSA and dozens of other 
shadowy agencies and other  governmental bureaucracies which, combined with 
the military-industrial complex, constitute an organic and harmonious 
whole, the function of which is to uphold and maintain US global hegemony. 
Surrounding this inner citadel of US imperial power, like the layers of an 
onion, are many different social couches, incorporating within themselves 
in often-contradictory ways, fragments of non-bourgeois social classes. The 
US security state engrosses at least a third to a half of the US GDP of 
around $10 trillion. I plan to post in extenso on this.  But no aspect and 
no department of the allegedly-civilian economy is free from the Security 
State, which has tentacles everywhere, which is the main driver of social 
and technical change, which is the specific gravity of US capitalism and 
the medium thru which it reproduces. All superstructural instances 
including law enforcement and the criminal justice system, the academy, all 
branches of the arts and humanities, not to speak of the social sciences 
and the fundamental sciences, are shaped by the mission, tasks and 
perspectives of the US Security State. It provides the ideological prism 
thru which US society perceives itself. Swathed around the citadel of the 
Security State are the layers of petit-bourgeois small business and 
professional workers who are its principal source of demographic support; 
outside them are still other, proletarian layers which are bound to it by 
many ties--these are what was once called the 'aristocracy of labour' and 
they include huge swaths of intellectual workers in the 'new economy' 
industries which in fact mostly spun-off from or are still organically 
related to and dependent upon, the military-industrial complex. These 
groups of workers, however vocally they support the chauvinist hysteria 
characteristic of the Bush Regime, are potentially and sometimes actually, 
dissident. This intellectualised proletariat must be the shock-brigades of 
any anti-capitalist revolutionary movement, they are a key potential asset 
of the revolution, and the gold in their heads is the key to postcapitalist 
reconstruction. Not just social reconstruction, but the crucial tasks of 
repairing damaged ecosystems and networks, salvaging the biosphere, and 
facilitating postcapitalist society's transition from its highly entropic 
and truly unsustainable urban lifeworld, but to a posturban or ex-urban 
world where the classical breach between Platonic contemplation and 
Aristotelian functionality can be healed.

The revolution cannot overcome the laws of physics any more than capitalism 
can. The laws of thermodynamics provide an immutable framework to all life 
on closed planetary systems such as ours. No advances in the science of 
energetics and no improvements in capital efficiency or in the productivity 
of labour, under any social system whatever, can prevent anthropogenic 
climate change as a result of human-made greenhouse gas emission. No 
substitute technologies such as nuclear, hydrogen or any other, can 
overcome the problem of planetary warming; even supposedly non-greenhouse 
technologies like nuclear power, if implemented on a wide enough scale to 
provide 9 billion humans with today's US per capita energy consumption, 
would result in such significant ambient warming and the release of water 
vapour (a powerful greenhouse gas by itself) as to produce the same risks 
of rising oceans, climatic change and even runaway, ecosphere-destroying 
warming.  Any responsible scientist is bound to concede that no amount of 
technical improvement, progress etc, cna overcome the iron limitations 
imposed on us by unalterable constraints determined by the limited size of 
the planet and the laws of thermodynamics. Therefore it is clear that 
current US living standards are achieved at the peril of the ecosphere and 
of all life on earth, and by the theft of life-opportunities from billions 
of fellow-humans living today in the Global South--and also by the theft of 
life and opportunity from all future generations, including America's.

What sustainability means is a radical realignment of global resource and 
energy consumption. Any Green NGO or political party or eco-socialist who 
does not accept that the ONLY solution to the problem is a radical 
redistribution of the use of energy and resources, is not telling it like 
it is.  It applies a fortiori to the US but it also applies to the other 
main OECD countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan and the European 
Union. For there to be a levelling-up, there must also be a levelling-down. 
This may be disagreeable medicine but the alternative is not the 
continuation of life as we know it, but the complete disintegration of 
society--of what Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere--and the great 
risk of the extinction of all life on earth. [Teilhard de Chardin- Le 
Phénomène humain, 1955: "But why should there be unification in the world 
and what purpose does it serve? To see the answer to this ultimate 
question, we have only to put side by side the two equations which have 
been gradually formulating themselves from the moment we began trying to 
situate the phenomenon of man in the world: Evolution = Rise of 
consciousness Rise of consciousness = Union effected."]

To achieve the goal which we surely all share, it is first necessary to 
dismantle the Security State, both in reality and in people's minds.

Sorry, I have no time right now to correct this or read it for sense.

Mark Jones


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