Oil and overproduction 3

David Schanoes dmsch at attglobal.net
Sun Jan 12 11:18:27 MST 2003


Let me begin at your previous message, just to make a point that I think is
essential to the discussion.  You state that there is no point to discussing
political economy [of oil] without first discussing geology.

That is the core of our disagreement.  Somewhere in my memory I recall Marx
writing in one of his earlier works that it is not the world of nature that
man confronts, but the world of other men.  Consequently we are never
discussing anything but political economy and its overthrow and replacement
by revolutionary social organization of production whenever we think we are
discussing natural resources. It's not geology we confront, it's the cost,
the property, of geology we confront.

I pose the issue on this level, not for its philosophical nature, but
because of the logic of capital itself.  The question is:  Is the
predicament of capital as compressed and expressed in oil capital
intelligible to the Marxist analysis of overproduction?  That analysis is
not one of under or over consumption of resources or commodities.  That
analysis is based on the exchange of capital with wage-labor, the technical
development of production which causes a rate of profit to fall, forcing the
class of capital to lean ever harder against wage-labor to appropriate more
surplus value, to use price inequities, interest rates, etc to divert the
total available profits into the hands of the oil capitalists, and to
destroy in some way the components of production both accumulated and

In essence I tried to plot the trajectory of the oil industry on the graph
of Marxist overproduction and I think the coordinates confirm the validity
of this approach.

The importance of this method is that it poses not just the necessity of
revolution, but a revolution based on the logic of capital and the social
relations of production, and thus it has a specific agent of revolution, a

The analysis you offer does not provide that, and so, in my view, it becomes
a theory of "Apocalypse Pretty Soon."

I read the piece you reproduced in your latest message when reviewing the
archives.  Itseems to confirm that assessment. The links from your
historical/techical analysis to social changes are tenuous at best and
simply posited without development.  I find in particular your blanket
statement that the collapse of the USSR is/was/  indicative/proof of the
world energy crisis lacking the necessary support.

The collapse of the USSR is subject to the very same  analysis of the world
markets, the interchange of the means and relations of production which
constitute Marxism, and I would provide an alternative analysis, but off the
list as it would be quite lengthy.  And, no, I don't think the USSR was a
capitalist state or state capitalist, but it did exist in the context of
world capitalism.

The notion of finite resources, shortages, is not without its own history.
Malthus of course gave it such prominence that economics became known as the
dismal science.  But because it has a history, the arguments of shortage
correspond to certain social and economic, certain CLASS, rather than
natural, conditions.

Around the time of the first OPEC crisis, and following the OPEC carter's
moves, the press was filled with descriptions of the forthcoming collapse of
oil availability, looming copper shortages, declining tin reserves, etc.
"Small was good," "Diet for a Small Planet," "ZPG," etc. fueled the popular
discussions.  Of course, these were simply ideogical diversions and
justifications for imposing austerity on the poor, workers, less-developed
countries..., on those who didn't have enough small or big to even consider
the size of the planet.

Are petroleum and hydrocarbon reserves finite?  Absolutely.  But are we at
the end of those reserves?  Based on the historical, social, rotations of
capital, I say no.  And the rotations, the movement of capital, the
trajectory of the oil industry, from exploration to production to
overproduction, is determined by the decline in the rate profit, not the
depletion of resources.


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