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Re: [ox-en] built-in infinite growth (was: Re: Meaning of markets, scarcity, abundance)

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This is all fine, but it doesn't say much about the origin of the drive for profit max (or M')- which I think is what Michel is after.

That is a tricky question. Profit maximization in itself is much older than modern capitalism. It is true that 'before capitalism' most production was for sufficiency, but there has been in all (?) times capitalist enterprises that sought to maximize profits- like traders, enriched freed slaves in Roman times, medieval relics traders, the church itself maximizing profits from its trade in divine forgiveness etc. If we follow Weber however, modern capitalism is distinguished by this drive to maximize profits becoming systemic and institutionalized: a hegemonic driver for all economic production. An iron case of systemic imperatives is built around the individual actor.

I can see three partial explanations:

-economies of scale ( which is mentioned below) this is indeed one of the core components of modern capitalism and, in competitive conditions it does support the drive for profit maximization.

- the iron cage itself, i.e. the whole institutional structure that supports modern capitalism and that that point sin the direction of profit max, here we can include private property, an interest based monetary system, competition and commercial law etc.

- cultural explanations: the unique factors that produced a modern capitalist spirit in the west (protestantism, individualism, modern rationalism) etc.

'Alienation' is not so much an explanation as a description of the phenomenon of an institutionalized and 'alien' logic of profit max. My suggestion is that we look at a complex interaction between (at least) these three factors as an explanation. That way we might also get a more detailed understanding of what an institutional embodiment of an alternative logic might look like.



On 06/gen/08, at 09:10, Michael Bauwens wrote:

Very clear explanation, thanks,


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----- Original Message ----
From: Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz>
To: list-en
Sent: Sunday, January 6, 2008 5:34:45 AM
Subject: [ox-en] built-in infinite growth (was: Re: Meaning of markets, scarcity, abundance)

Hi Michel,

I narrowed the topic just to the infinite growth question and

other points here.

On 2008-01-05 03:29, Michael Bauwens wrote:
What I'm not sure is why it is the commodity-money cycle (M-C-M) that
is responsible for infinite growth. I think this cycle was operating
in stable local markets long before capitalism.

StefanMn already answered this point, however, maybe his

to short. StefanMn wrote:

Even then there might have been elements of exchange but
- as Marx rightly says - the important point is when the markets
shifted from a "Good => Money => Other Good" logic to a "Money =>
Commodity => More Money" logic - being the basis of capitalism.
This is also the root of where the logic of infinite growth creeps
in. Infinite growth is certainly alienated from humanity.

BC: Before capitalism we have C-M-C

By using "good" instead of "commodity" (as Marx did) Stefan is more
precise, because before capitalism goods had not been commodities.
Being a commodity is a special societal form goods (only) get in
capitalism. In the following I use "good" when talking about

WC: Within capitalism we have M-C-M'

The really important sign here is the apostrophe, which you forgot. It
indicates the entirely different dynamics of pre-capitalist markets

capitalist markets. Lets look a bit into it.

BC: Goods are generally produced for self-suffiency. To obtain goods
someone is not producing, the overplus of the produced goods are
brought to market: Either to exchange them directly with other goods

via money being the mediator. At the end, there is not a

but only an "other good". There is no (effective) driver for
progression. Things develop slowly and under circumstances of personal

WC: Roles and relationships of C (or G) and M have completely changed
(ignoring why and how). When BC the good and thus the needs are
starting and end point of the cycle, now money takes this place, and
commodities are in the roles of the mean. From the standpoint of the
cycle logic, the purpose concerning needs aren't of interest at

products may be food or bombs, it doesn't count. The only purpose is

make money.

However, the purpose is not simply to make money, the purpose is to
make _more_ money than invested before. This more-logic comes from
competition of those producers who want to sell the same commodity on

limited market. A single capitalist can't say "my way of production is
ok, I'll do it for the rest of my live", because the competitor

sleep and produces the same commodities cheaper to overtake market
share from the competitor. Why overtaking market share? Because of the
economics of scale: On a bigger scale you can produce cheaper (more
efficient in terms of value). Conclusion: All participants have to
strive for increasing the productivity of work to make their products
cheaper - by punishment of downfall. They have no choice if they want
to stay inside.

"Having no choice" means a coercion to follow the rules of the things
(the commodities). This leads to a reversal of the relationship

the social and the things. In capitalism it is no longer the case,

we organize socially what things we want to produce to satisfy our
needs, it is reversed: The things seem to have a life of its own, they
move and say to us, want we should do, to satisfy their "needs". They
say: Produce me cheaper or you're out of the game. This really weird
behavior was named "fetishism" by Marx, and this was one of his most
important discoveries (and not the exploitation stuff, which of course
it true anyway).

Marx in his own words: "Thus the participants in capitalist production
live in a bewitched world and their own relationships appear to them

properties of things, as properties of the material elements of

StefanMn uses another term addressing the same topic: alienation.
Production in capitalism is alienated, we don't do it for us, we do it for M' in M-C-M'. Thus the "C", the products, are only a by- product of an alienated logic, they are not the aim. Being only a by-product also means, that it cannot be controlled, what they are (food, bomb, etc.), because they all serve M'. And moreover, other externalities cannot be
controlled too: CO2-emission etc. Ok, states try to implement some
controllings via prices, however, this doesn't really help. Stop.

Conclusion: The built-in infinite growth feature of capitalism finally
eats the planet -- and us.


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