June 18, 2015
A response to Ned Ludd by GABRIEL LEVY
Ned Ludd’s article on socialism and ecology raises important questions. What would a “real fusion” of socialism and ecology look like? How should socialist
A can factory, 1909. Source: resourcesforhistoryteachers.wikispaces.com
movements look at industrialism? Is “technocracy” a concept that helps us get to grips with this?
The left “needs to abandon its mythology of the ‘liberation of the productive forces’”, Ned argues. “Instead of that narrative of progress, we need to realise that industrialism is a 200-year-old bubble that is beginning to burst.”
Much of the organised left accepts uncritically assumptions about the benefits of industrial progress, and Ned’s warnings about this are justified, to my mind. The view of technology as something that marches forward outside of its social context, and will ultimately serve progressive causes in changing that social context, needs to be challenged.
The best place I can think of to start a serious critique of the “mythology of the ‘liberation of the productive forces’”, as Ned proposes, is with Karl Marx. After all, Read the rest of this entry »
June 14, 2015
(or, Why the Luddites were right, and Marx was wrong, about technology)
This guest post by NED LUDD of Breaking the Frame is published in the hope of provoking discussion. Responses are welcome! GL.
“Socialism can only be reached by bicycle” – José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Assistant Secretary of Justice in the government of Salvador Allende (Chile, 1970-73)
“Today, the main content of politics is economics, and the main content of economics is technology” – E.F. Schumacher, “Technology with a Human Face” (in Small is Beautiful, 1973)
Have you noticed how practically every critical issue about the future of our society hinges on technology? Whether it’s the global ecological crisis, the elimination of jobs through automation, surveillance and social effects of the internet, or the threat of a new eugenics, technology is critical. Yet public debate about these issues is stuck in the myths of progress through technology and the “neutrality” of technology. The left, because of its fundamental allegiance to those myths, has not got much to say and seems to have a major blind spot in its general methodology of critique of capitalist ideology.
On the whole, the left has learned rather little from the green critique of industrialism, and as a result most left theorising on this issue mounts to little more than bolting on a rather shallow environmentalism. Confident that it owns the master narrative on these issues (i.e. the dynamics of class conflict and capitalism), the left generally does not do much better than asserting that, once we control the means of production, everything will be fine. (Of course, there have been many more sophisticated approaches, particularly from Marxist critical Read the rest of this entry »
April 13, 2015
Social and labour movements need a coherent critique of science and technology, it was argued at a meeting in London on Saturday.
On a practical level, battles against damaging technologies have often been waged separately from each other, and could do more to reinforce each other, it was pointed out.
This includes technologies deployed by corporate power in an anti-natural, anti-human way (e.g . “extreme energy” or genetic engineering of people or crops), technologies of social control (e.g. anti-crowd hardware or electronic surveillance), and technologies that harmed workers’ health and/or reinforced their exploitation (e.g. hazardous chemicals or building practices).
The use, misuse and abuse of science in developing these technologies is crucial. And the meeting highlighted the history of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS), that in the 1970s and 80s successfully mobilised scientists to work with labour and protest movements. It considered the lessons of this experience for activists today.
The gathering (title: Radical Science and Alternative Technology) was organised by the Breaking the Frame group, and featured talks by veteran BSSRS activists and by present-day campaigners. Here are my impressions of an Read the rest of this entry »
April 1, 2015
Human activity has changed the earth so drastically that we are in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, says a bunch of scientists. No, it’s “capital, not humanity as such” that’s responsible, writes socialist activist and environmental researcher Andreas Malm in Jacobin magazine.
Malm argues that it’s “the reliance by capitalists on the extraction and use of fossil energy” that is “driving us toward disaster” – and that this is downplayed by the Anthropocene concept.
Malm hits at three targets. First, he defends social movements that take up climate issues from attack by Mark Lynas, whose book The God Species popularised the Anthropocene idea. Second, he takes on scientists who suggest
The use of ammonia-based fertilisers has caused the biggest upset to the nitrogen cycle in 2.5 billion years. Photo from the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
that human damage to the environment is a function of human productive activity in general. And third, he argues against climate science, politics and discourse that are framed as “species-thinking, humanity-bashing, undifferentiated collective self-flagellation” – “ideological pirouettes that only serve to conceal the driver”.
In my view, Lynas richly deserves the polemical kicking he gets from Malm. Lynas’s rant against the left-wing journalist Naomi Klein, who argues that averting climate change is inextricably linked with the fight for social justice, is both unfounded and idiotic. Unfounded, because Lynas denounces Klein’s realistic-but-optimistic book This Changes Everything for reflecting a “miserabilist and dystopian worldview”, which it Read the rest of this entry »