[Marxism] The Entropy of Capitalism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 14 05:44:20 MST 2012

On 2/14/12 7:25 AM, Ismail Lagardien wrote:
> This came through one of my feeds... Would like to hear views from people on this list. Sorry for the length, I know I can get into trouble.
> Robert Biel's The Entropy of Capitalism
> is a wonderfully accessible, path-breaking work of political economy,
> indispensable for understanding our times. It brilliantly combines
> Marxist with dynamical systems theory to argue that
> capitalism/imperialism is literally in the throes of its demise. It may
> linger on in a “cold” imperialist mode for a generation or two but, ever
> parasitical both on human society and on the physical environment, it has
> now moved into an “autophagous” phase in which it parasitizes the chaos that
> it itself creates, “notably in the link between the two sides of imperialism:
> militarism (the 'war on terror') and speculative finance capital”.

Biel is terrific. I will most certainly read this.


Robert Biel's "The New Imperialism: Crisis and Contradictions in 
North/South Relations"

Robert Biel's "The New Imperialism: Crisis and Contradictions in 
North/South Relations" (Zed Books, 2000) is everything that 
Hardt-Negri's "Empire" is not. Starting with the premise that there *is* 
such a thing as imperialism--as opposed to some nebulous concept of 
Empire--Biel supplies the kind of data to support his argument that is 
ostentatiously missing from Hardt-Negri. And he ends with an embrace of 
local, precapitalist initiatives that are disdained by Hardt-Negri, who 
favor a kind of homogenizing and benign globalization that appears to 
critics as a leftwing version of Thomas Friedman's "Lexus and the Olive 

For those Marxists rooted in grass-roots activism, it might come as a 
surprise that some of their academic brethren either deny the phenomenon 
of imperialism or--worse--welcome its existence through a kind of 
neo-Kautskyist self-deception. The late Bill Warren was the most notable 
example. Starting out with an undialectical appreciation of the 
Communist Manifesto, they assume that because Marx wrote, "The 
bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the 
instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and 
with them the whole relations of society," it is necessary to stand with 
the bourgeoisie against every local initiative that would impede this 
process. Between the multinational corporation seeking to "modernize" 
agriculture in Mexico in order to step up the export of flowers or 
lettuce, for example, and the Mayan peasant seeking to preserve 
traditional corn-based subsistence farming, they might choose the former.


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