[Marxism] Shadows of the Future

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Wed Nov 2 18:40:05 MST 2005

My latest highly eccentric essay on environmental questions. If you've read
Robert Axelrod on cooperation, you'll know where the title comes from.
Comments are invited - this is all work in progress.


For the environmentally aware, the future is a scary place. Judging by the
books I reviewed in a previous essay, and the proponderance of scientific
opinion, we have little time left before the global ecosystem degrades to
an irreversible degree, probably causing major wars in the process.

The Marxist alternative, which I also discussed is little known (even by
Marxists) and we’ve done far too little work on applying it to the emerging
crisis situation.

Instead way too much of the debate oscillates between two poles: market
mechanisms, and state intervention. That is a bizarre and depressing
circumstance, considering the track record of each. Private-property based
market capitalism is quite obviously wrecking the planet today, while the
alternative model of Soviet-style centrally planned economies managed to
create some of the worst environmental disasters of all. This leaves most
reformers looking for some kind of ‘third way’ mixing the two; but why
should a cocktail of arsenic and cyanide be less toxic than each poison on
its own?

I want to suggest a quite different alternative, leading to a very
different destination, but the current state of the debate requires us to
slog through some difficult territory en route. This includes a discussion
of two paradigms that sum up key aspects of capitalism: the "tragedy of the
commons" and the "prisoner’s dilemma". Both are commonly understood as
situations ordained by human nature. I don’t share that view; I think
they’re creations of class society in general, and more specifically
capitalism – which means we can transcend them.

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