Smashwords Edition, License Notes




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Human Behavior in a Post-Capitalist World

For me, this viewpoint smacks of Freudian junk science and what Michael Parenti refers to as “psychohistory” in his 1999 History as Mystery. Decades of behavioral research refute Freud’s early twentieth century hypothesis that adults are locked into re-enacting their childhood history by unconscious thoughts and feelings they can’t recall. Research in learning theory, a field pioneered by Pavlov and Skinner, has repeatedly demonstrated that adult behavior is far more responsive to real life contingencies (e.g. poverty and stress) than to early childhood events.

Most research suggests that long lasting brain effects in a post-capitalist world will mainly stem from poor fetal and early childhood nutrition, chronic industrially related illnesses (cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, etc), and environmental toxins – fluoride, toxic chemicals, and nuclear and microwave radiation (from cellphones and WiFi). At the same time most behavioral research is consistent with my thirty-plus years of clinical experience – that human beings are incredibly resilient and dynamic animals who readily adapt to a changing environment, even in extremely dire circumstances.

Obviously the first century of post-capitalism will involve major infrastructure changes – to ensure that food and other essential resources are more equitably allocated and to systematically remove toxins from the food chain, water supply, air and human beings. Moreover all major transitional periods are associated with enormous political and social instability.

At the same time, I also believe that natural safeguards fundamental to a post-capitalist participatory democracy – in which citizens themselves run government and workers their place of work – that will offer protection against the most brutal after effects of class society. High on the list of “safeguards” will be



  1. An end to the domination/exploitation paradigm that allows a ruling elite to “conquer” and brutally exploit (and where necessary destroy or exterminate) nature and other human beings.

A restoration of the “natural” extended family and social networks that have been destroyed as a result of the domination/exploitation paradigm and which human beings require, based on their biological programming, for optimal functioning.

  1. The replacement of hierarchical governance, both in the workplace and society at large, with governance via consensus decision-making.

Life After Capitalism – Part I

The Political Structure of Post-Capitalism

(July 27, 2011)

 

Marx predicts that the collapse of capitalism will be followed by either socialism, characterized by full political and economic equality, or ''barbarism,'' his term for brutal totalitarian feudalism. Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute offers three possible scenarios for post-capitalist society (see “How Resource Scarcit y Threatens Democracy” in Part V “Making Change”). The first is totalitarianism; the second a somewhat more liberal ''Green New Deal'' that preserves class society; and the third the break-up of large nation states into small, democratically-run regional units. However unlike Marx, Heinberg predicts that any totalitarian governments that form will be short- lived. He believes that global resource depletion will make it impossible to maintain the large centralized police and intelligence networks required to maintain totalitarian control over large populations. This, in turn, will cause large empires and nation-states like the US, Russia, and China to break up into smaller self-governing regional units, as occurred during the Middle Ages following the collapse of the Roman Empire.

As a passionate advocate of participatory democracy, I believe it will be up to the people who survive the collapse of capitalism to determine for themselves how they will govern themselves. Nevertheless I believe we can predict some features of the small regional units that will develop. Furthermore, like Heinberg, I believe that with advanced planning and preparation, the transition could be an extraordinarily positive change for most of humankind.

Will Capitalism Degenerate into Feudalism?

Prior to the Roman conquest, the barbarian Celtic tribes in Europe lived in democratic, communally run regional units. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, these units became city-states, which were seized as personal property by feudal lords, who enslaved the other occupants to work their land for them. However in Europe and elsewhere, feudalism was a very impermanent political structure. Peasant revolts against feudal lords were incredibly common and could only be suppressed by merging city-states merged into nation-states, run by kings who formed large national armies to enforce stability. As Heinberg suggests, maintaining large nation-states and empires requires guaranteed access to resources (food, energy, metals, and other raw materials for weapons and communication systems) that are rapidly being depleted.

Bottom-Up Government

Unlike the Bolshevik Revolution, which had the immense resources of the Tsarist empire at its disposal, most of the small, regional units that emerge following the collapse of global capitalism will be forced to rebuild themselves from the ground-up. They all have the potential to be built according to democratic and egalitarian principles, though this is by no means guaranteed.

A study of early New England efforts to govern via ''town hall'' direct democracy reveals that self-governance is always more effective in small groups and communities. Early colonists found that once authority shifted from town to state and, eventually, federal government, ordinary people lost the ability to have input into decision making. They could only elect representatives and had no ability to ensure the individuals they chose would actually represent their interests. Moreover along with direct input into government, they also lost the ability to prevent individuals and corporations from taking over traditionally public resources for their private use.

Reclaiming the Commons

''The Commons'' is a historical concept that views certain property, material goods, and intangibles (such as waterways, the air people breathe, and the public airwaves) as belonging to the community, to be managed in a way that benefits the public interest, rather than that of a particular individual or group. The eighteenth century (British) Enclosure Act is considered the watershed event enabling individual and corporate interests to take precedence over the pubic good. Under the Enclosure Act, the landed gentry banned peasant farmers from raising crops or grazing on the ''village commons,'' which now became ''enclosed'' as the gentry's private property. Much of this newly acquired land was used to build factories during the Industrial Revolution.

Many communities around the world have already made a good start in reclaiming ''the Commons'' from the corporate elite. In some American towns and cities, this entails taking over functions state and local government have ceased to perform. Examples include local citizens groups who have successfully fought corporate infringement on their communities (for example, protecting their water supply against bottled water companies or the fecal waste generated by factory farms (see http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/programs_factoryfarms.html and http://www.thealliancefordemocracy.org/water/). Other examples include local groups who have opted out of the corporate banking and food production system by creating community and state banks, local currencies and bartering systems, as well as community gardens and orchards, farmers markets and community supported agriculture schemes.

Life After Capitalism – Part II

Post-Capitalist Society

(July 27, 2011)


The post-capitalist world will see major social changes, either because they are dictated by resource scarcity – or because they are fundamental to participatory democracy. Examples include

1. The end of capitalism’s insane perpetual growth and economic expansion paradigm - if society commits to an equitable distribution of the earth’s remaining resources, work and production will be limited to provision of basic needs and the rearing and education of children.

2. Equal division of labor - work will be shared equally among everyone, instead of shifting vast amounts of unpaid and low paid work to blue collar workers, women, and minorities.

3. Reintegration of fathers into family life and child rearing - a reduction in work hours will mean an increase in leisure time, freeing up men to involve themselves in family life and child rearing, as they did prior to the Industrial Revolution.

4. The end of oppression of women and ethnic and sexual minorities - the oppression of women plays two distinct economic roles under capitalism: the first relates to the vast amount of unpaid and low paid labor they perform, and the second to the pressure on women and sexual minorities to conform to stereotyped sex roles and produce children. Ethnic minorities will cease to be exploited as surplus workers to be moved in and out of the labor force to control wages.

5. The restoration of extended families and communal child rearing - when the corporate propaganda driving mindless reproduction ceases, fewer people will have fewer children. This, along with an increase in leisure time, will create a strong incentive for childless community members to participate in communal child rearing and education.

6. Equal access to education - with fewer children and more community involvement in their education, bright and curious of children of both sexes and all ethnicities will have the potential to become little Einsteins. Unlike capitalism, where quality education is reserved for children (male children in many cultures) of upper income white families.

7. Reduced global population - without access to cheap fossil fuels, industrial agriculture will end. Heinberg predicts that without cheap oil and natural gas (for fertilizer and pesticides and to run farm machinery), the planet can support at most two billion people.

8. Drastic dietary changes - without the cheap transportation made possible by fossil fuels, we all be forced to adopt the 100 mile diet – limiting ourselves to the locally grown foods in season. Moreover based on equitable distribution of food and energy resources, all of us will most likely become vegetarian. Even under industrial agriculture, the earth only produces enough meat for one-third of the global population.

How Much Will Global Population Drop Without Fossil Fuels?

Organic farmers in the Biointensive movement (an amalgamation of the eighty year old Biodynamic and French Intensive movements) dispute the 2 billion maximum carrying capacity Heinberg predicts in a post-fossil fuel world. They point to studies showing that Biointensive methods increase crop yields by 150-200% (see http://www.theecologist.org/trial_investigations/268287/10_reasons_why_organic_can_feed_the_world.html). Given WHO and World Hunger studies revealing that our current system of industrial agriculture feeds only 84% of the world (the other 16% are continuously on the verge of starvation – see http://www.prb.org/Journalists/PressReleases/2005/MoreThanHalftheWorldLivesonLessThan2aDayAugust2005.aspx), we could estimate that a switch from industrial to Biointensive agriculture could potentially feed a global population of 7.8 billion.

The Privilege of Eating Meat

Current Biointensive research is limited to grain and vegetable crop yields. Preliminary research applying Biointensive methods to livestock grazing reveals that an agricultural system providing every global resident with meat is only possible with a global population of 2-3 billion.

The average energy input required to produce meat protein is eleven times greater than that required for grain protein production. A meat-based diet also requires ten times more land than a plant-based diet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_vegetarianism) and 100 times more water (http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/660S.long). In the US alone, the amount of energy, land and water used to raise livestock grains to would be sufficient to feed an additional 840 million people eating a plant-based diet. (http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/660S.long).

At present approximately one-third of the planet (those in the privileged industrialized north) consume meat (http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/660S.long). Owing to shortages of cropland, fresh water, and energy resources the other two-thirds (4.7 billion people) of the planet are compelled to survive on a vegetarian diet. With rapid industrial development in India and China, these ratios are changing rapidly.

Hard Choices for Activists

Sustainability and social justice activists are faced with some hard choices. It we are genuine in our commitment to replace capitalism with a more egalitarian society, we need to face the reality that no society is truly egalitarian if only rich people eat meat. Thus truly equal distribution of land and water resources will either require a reduction of the global population to 2-3 billion – or a commitment by the planet’s present carnivores to sacrifice meat.

If we fail to make this choice – and do nothing – we will be left with a scenario in which Malthusian forces (war, famine, and disease) drastically reduce global population for us.

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