[Marxism] [Ecosocialist] Mass psychology explanations of global warming denial

ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
Sun Mar 18 18:18:56 MDT 2012

> If any of you can figure out how any of us can opt out of
> class society, please share it with the rest of the class.
> :-)

Of course, we all (with the possible exception of Jon
Elster) know that we cannot opt out of class society.  The
question is why?  Because we need products to survive, and
production can only be done in society.  Marx said in the
Introduction to Grundrisse

> Production by a solitary individual outside society---a
> rare event, which might occur when a civilized person who
> has already absorbed the dynamic social forces is
> accidentally cast into the wilderness---is just as
> preposterous as the development of speech without
> individuals who live *together* and talk to one another.

That is why the relations which individuals have with nature
and with each other in the production process are the most
basic social relations.  This is how I understand historical
materialism, and if you disagree with this I would be curious
to hear you but this is not the main point I am pursuing here.

Class society is something which people are forced into by
economic necessity, and for the majority it is certainly no
idyllic place.  The next question, which Marx or Engels
never asked, is therefore, how can people manage to work
together and live together if society is an institution in
which a small elite rips off the rest?  Will they not get so
envious about each other and angry at each other that they
openly fight with each other, and a civilized living
together is impossible?  Again, we all know that class
societies are possible, we live in one which elicits at
least a semblance of mass consensus.  But it is still worth
while understanding what makes this possible.  The answer
given by the modern sociology of emotions is that people
have learned to manage or control their emotions.  This is a
tricky affair, emotions are automatic, and in order to
manage them, you need to learn the art of self-deception and
of denial.

Let me repeat.  People can only live together in a civilized
way in a modern class society because they have learned to
keep their emotions in check, to the extent that they do not
even feel them any more or that they displace them.  This is
necessary for the social order to function despite its
antagonisms.  I think such a theory would still fall in the
purview of Marxism although to my knowledge neither Marx or
Engels said anything like that.

The main point of this exercise is: this ability to banish
unpleasant realities from our consciousness has suddenly
become a great liability.  It has become suicidal, because
it hinders mass mobilization to prevent climate catastrophe.
We know that many of our childen and grandchildren are going
to die prematurely because of natural disasters, epidemics,
resource wars, lack of food or water.  At least this
knowledge is available socially even if many individuals in
the US at this point still have shielded themselves from it.
Yet we are not running around tearing our hair out, because
such a generalized panic would prevent society from
functioning and therefore would doom us today instead of in
a few dozen years.  This is of course not all the reasons
but it is possibly one of them.

Does this understanding help us to overcome climate change
denial?  Of course it does.  You always know better how to
change things if you understand why things are the way they

Here is one idea how this theory of false consciousness
might inform our strategy.  This is just brainstorming.
Perhaps we must offer a believable organizational framework
that promises to channel all that upset and rage into a
productive direction before the groundswell mass movement
necessary to save a liveable future will arise.  While we
are waiting that the masses get their act together, maybe
the masses are waiting that we are getting our act together.
Right now such a believable framework does not exist.  Even
if climate hawks came into power, they would disagree on
almost everything: nuclear power or not, centralized
electricity generation with lots of transmission lines
versus decentralized generation, the role of natural gas,
how to overcome the competition between national economies,
what a green development path would look like.  These issues
are so difficult that we activists ourselves cannot resolve
them in detail before we come to power, but we must at least
have some overall guidelines how we want to resolve all

I have some ideas about this, but I know that many of you
will disagree.

(1) I think we can and should declare already now that
nuclear power is not one of the options which we are
considering as a solution to the problem.

(2) We also could declare already now that in the rich
countries we are aiming for a lifestyle with less material
consumption, but more free time, more education and art.

(3) We are aiming for an economic order which can function
without growth in the developed countries.  Maybe the
developed contries should even shrink their economies so
that the developing countries have more room to grow.  No
growth means more social justice, there must be minimum and
maximum incomes.

(4) We are aiming for free distribution of the technologies
necessary to de-carbonize energy world wide and make
industrial production sustainable.

Some of the things which are necessary to mitigate the
climate crisis are not politically correct, for instance:

(5) We are aiming for a one child per family rule.

(6) I think we have to restrict international migration.
Instead the rich countries have to commit themselves to help
the poor countries so that the people in the poor countries
can survive and have a good life without having to emigrate.

OK, now shoot me :)


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