Eco-Capitalism: Another 3rd Way Trap

As the profit motive driven system that is capitalism drives the world closer to ecological destruction, more and more people are becoming aware of the approaching threat. Even those who previously denied the this threat are beginning to understand the seriousness of the situation. The propaganda pumped out by the ruling class and capitalist class is not working anymore. Only those who still hold tightly the 50’s “God and country as infallible” mentality are still clinging to this lie against global warming.

Despite the obviousness of the profit-motive’s desire to suppress the reality of global warming, many people still refuse to acknowledge its “hidden hand” in it. Despite he very serious threat to all of humanity, many of capitalism’s supporters refuse to acknowledge that the profit motive (as well as capitalism) is the very source of this threat. So it should not be seen as unusual that a kind of “third way” has appeared. There has always been a “third way” going as far back as Marx’s time. Social-Democrats are the usual form it takes. However in this century it has taken the form of “Eco” capitalism.

This Eco-capitalism is a retro idea given a new paint job, a healthy shade of green. As in the past, the apologists for capitalism (commonly liberals) have been “embarrassed” by its effects on the world. This time it goes beyond simply being “embarrassed” by its effects to being terrified by them. It is in these moments of “fear” that individuals often grasp more strongly to their beliefs. We’ve seen this with the 2008 global economic collapse. many have refused to accept that capitalism caused the event. And instead of criticizing their belief, they have become market fundamentalists. In times of crisis they have only gripped more firmly to their faith. Like a Christian who has lost their way only to become “born again”.

This new “Third Way” is still just an apology for capitalism. Like previous “Third Ways” it has found its political leaders and political parties. What was once the social-democrats is now the various Green Parties that can be found around the world. Where the social-democrats have promised a reigning in and greater control of capitalism, the Greens have promised a reorientation of capitalism towards Eco-friendly ideas and beliefs.

The Greens have given us this version of a capitalism where the productive forces can be used in a socially responsible manner. They claim they can effect a capitalist mobilization with the goal of sustaining human life on Earth ecologically. Along with this as an aside, they’ll tackle homelessness and global poverty , maybe even economic inequality. This message speaks to a post-materialist crowd, better known as hippies. It gives a very holistic spiritual flavour to what is in reality an exploitative repressive ideology. In truth, the whole “Green mentality” is just another “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down”.

An amusing aspect to this whole green-capitalism is its claim that it can attract capitalists with an altruistic incentive. This aspect was best put by Slavoj Zizek:

“Capitalists should not just be machines for generating profits, since their lives can have a deeper meaning. Their preferred mottos have become social responsibility and gratitude: they are the first to admit that society has been incredibly good to them to deploy their talents and amass great wealth, so it is their duty to give something back to society and to help ordinary people. Only this kind of caring approach makes business success worthwhile.”

– Slavoj Zizek, First as Tragedy, then as Farce

I’m sure there is no need for me to explain why reaching out to capitalists with altruism is absolutely hilarious.

Regardless of however the Greens think they will entice or even coerce the capitalists, they will achieve nothing. They will achieve nothing for one simple reason: Eco-capitalism is capitalism. Despite its well-meaning altruism the profit motive doesn’t change. The mistake here by the Greens is that they separate the ideological basis of capitalism (individualist greed) from the economic relations (the capitalist mode of production). What they then try to do is graft an altruistic, even spiritual ideology on those same economic relations.

Such a surgical transplanting of ideologies as failure is not recognized by the Greens because they have not done a materialist analysis of capitalism. Marx clearly pointed out that social-relations spring from economic-relations. A greedy, exploitative people are a product of a greedy and exploitative system. (Its also a self-perpetuating mechanism, it creates greedy people while turning around to say “see people are naturally greedy”.) To put it another way, the “greedy individualist” body will inevitably reject the “altruistic” organ.

If you want to change the social-relations of the system, you have to change the economic-relations. Refusing to do so is an ideological position as opposed to a materialist analysis. Attempting to change things without a materialist analysis in a material way will lead only to disaster.

In the material conditions we face, the capitalist class controls the means of production. Meaning they hold all power in society, financial (in the form of money), physically (in the form of police/military/judicial system) and ideologically, (propaganda through ownership of media). This power will keep them from achieving anything. It is also why reform does not work, and why only revolution brings victory.

Suppose a Green Party won a majority in some country. There are only 2 ways the scenario would play out.

1. The party actually comes into power and genuinely tries to put through the reforms to capitalism they intend. The capitalist class fights back using the media to give the impression that everyone hates them and go the other parties to force them out. They would create all kinds of scandals and lies to basically bash them out of office and call new elections.

2. The party actually comes into power and genuinely tries to put through the reforms to capitalism they intend. The capitalist class fights back and the party leadership gives up because they can’t win. Immediately they sell out the voters and become just another group of tools.

The Greens can never fight back because they do not control the means of production and the power that flows from them. Nor do they have the intention of ever doing so.

In the concrete material reality the ecological crisis is caused by capitalism. No amount of reform can possibly effect this bringing it to an end, because it remains capitalism. Ecological destruction is a part of economic relations. The only solution is to change the economic relations in a way where the goal is not profit at all cost, but to the sustainment of human life. We achieve that by abolishing capitalism. This is not possible under Eco-capitalism because it is capitalism.

Eco-capitalism in concrete material reality, is another “Third Way” trap that offers no viable solutions to the problems and dangers we face. No amount of spiritual or ideological re-flavouring can change the fallacy of the “Third Way” position. Revolution is the only solution.