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Last Dance for Capitalism

by Annette Jensen Sunday, Sep. 13, 2009 at 3:32 AM

Capitalism reaches its inner limit and strangulates itself and the environment. Increasingly effective measures lead to fewer and fewer workers producing ever-greater quantities. The real economy becomes an appendage of speculation bubbles.


Capitalism Criticism. Andre Gorz sees possibilities for a liberated society

By Annette Jensen

[This article published in: Die Tagesanzeitung, 6/13/2009 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.taz.de.]

In times of crisis, “Ways Out of Capitalism” by Andre Gorz is very readable and exciting. Unlike many others, the author did not only propound great convincing theses in analyzing the present ecological and economic situation… He also sketched ways out. Gorz compiled his collected essays two years ago – just before he died in September 2007.

Four years ago the French social philosopher corrected described current developments. “If the prices of Wall Street should permanently fall, […] the worldwide banking system will collapse like a house of cards.” However Gorz did not only see the cause of the financial and economic crisis in deficient regulation by state institutions. That is only a superficial view. Rather capitalism reaches its inner limit and strangulates itself and the environment.

Increasingly effective measures lead to fewer and fewer workers producing ever-greater quantities of goods. The production costs of manufacture tend to fall. To increase profits or at least keep the same level, growing sales are constantly necessary. Thus marketing divisions drive the system, not the demand and desires of customers. Gorz quotes the director of the US agency: “I see advertising as a power of education and activation that can bring about demand changes necessary for us.”

The customer serves a production that produces a maximum of surplus things that must break as quickly as possible to create room for new goods.

Such an economy of waste is not future-friendly even in an economic sense and rushes to an ecological collapse. Since mass production was less and less profitable, many firms in the last years invested a large part of their profits in the financial market. “The real economy becomes an appendage of the speculation bubbles inflated by the financial industry. Up to the inevitable moment when the bubbles burst, the banks went bankrupt one after another. The world credit system collapsed and a serious lasting depression threatens the real economy,” Gorz wrote in 2007. We face this today.


“The end of capitalism has begun,” Gorz proclaimed. An active working class is not the crucial factor. On the contrary, many employees nowadays are anxious about keeping their jobs. The “information revolution” could be capitalism’s last dance, Gorz said. Whether everything will end in catastrophe or in a desirable communal economy was not clear to him. Still he offered a positive vision.

While raw materials and material production become less important, the importance of knowledge rapidly increases. But knowledge is a different material than iron or oil. Its value is not measured in money but in the awakened interest and in its diffusion. For the first time in the world, knowledge can no longer be monopolized and privatized but is used without shriveling or becoming scarce. Digitalization makes possible its free and worldwide dissemination.

In principle “the economy of knowledge is called to be an economy of community that is free of charge,” copyleft instead of copyright.

Such an economy has the chance of liberating work from its market value and commodity character. It can bid farewell to the growth pressure of capitalism that created more poverty because for example a positive value was only given to the supply of drinking water in the gross domestic product when everyone had to pay for this. Instead of the greatest possible profit for a few, the real needs of all can be central. Such a communal economy also means regaining decisional power over production and scaling back gigantism and the complexity of the manufacturing process.


Gorz proposes making the “norm of sufficiency” into a political standard. In autonomous self-governed structures, “associated producers” have the freedom to consider together the efforts to be expended and the extent of needs. Such an efficient economy is far more environmentally friendly than the capitalism that strives for “maximum inefficiency in covering needs and satisfying the largest possible number of needs with the greatest possible flood of goods.

Capitalism criticism and political-ecological thinking were inseparable for Gorz.


"2009 Preliminary Report of the UN Stiglitz Commission" (109 pages, pdf)

“VIDEO: Conversation with John Kenneth Galbraith.” 52 minutes

“VIDEO: Chomsky on Reagan and Friedman Economics”

"Capitalism is the Problem: System Error" by Bernd Druck and Yaak Pabst

"The Crisis of Capitalism: Credit-Doping" by Rainer Roth

"The Crisis of Speculative Capitalism" by Rudolf Hickel

"Economic Policy after the Financial Crisis" by Kai Burmeister and Till von Treek

"One Nation, Two National Economies" by Max Fraad Wolff

VIDEO: Eduardo Galeano on Grit TV"
link to lauraflanders.firedoglake.com

"Blame Canada" by the Stimulator on www.submedia.tv

May knowledge-maximization replace profit-maximization! (cf. Rainer Roth)

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