I am very pleased to publish today an interview with TORAB SALETH about the recent nationwide wave of protests in Iran. The interview puts the revolt that has spread across the country, last year and this, in the context of the Islamic republic’s deep political and economic crisis. It discusses the way that such movements can be confounded by reactionary politics, and casts a very critical eye on the “left” groups. Torab Saleth was a leading member of a large Trotskyist group in Iran at the time of the 1979 revolution. He left it in protest at its continued cooperation with groups that had collaborated with the Islamic dictatorship. He is active today in the Revolutionary Socialist Tendency of Iran. You can READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE.
Oil, gas and petrochemicals companies are responding to public revulsion about plastic waste in their own special way: by investing billions to INCREASE plastics production.
Thanks to their efforts, global output of ethylene and propylene, the two main raw materials for plastics production, is expected to RISE BY ONE-THIRD in the next seven years.
I am all in favour of campaigns to cut down the insanely wasteful use of plastic bottles, bags and
packaging. But let’s also make sure we understand the root of the problem: systems of production and consumption that aim only to raise output, and the mighty corporate interests that control them.
The trail from gas, oil and coal production, through petrochemicals plants, to manufacturing and trading companies thatgorge on needless mountains of plastic, has been well researched by campaigning NGOs, lawyers and journalists. Here is People & Nature’s handy guide:
Production: the US shale gas boom
Nearly all plastics are made from coal, oil or gas (see “Quick chemistry catch-up”, below). The recent boom in shale gas production has caused US gas supply to outstrip demand. That in turn has triggered a wave of investment in petrochemicals plants that make ethylene, the key raw material for several types of plastic.
In other words, it is the availability of cheap raw material – not any obvious human need – that is driving plastics production growth.
The US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report last month that three new ethylene plants (called “cracking” plants) had started up in 2017, and another six are due Read the rest of this entry »
Review of: Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: the Earth, history and us (London: Verso, 2017)
Think again, and differently, about the relationship between human society and the natural world. That is the challenge offered by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz.
They question accepted ideas about “environmental crisis” and “sustainable development”, and urge
us to subvert the “unifying grand narrative of the errant human species and its redemption by science alone”.
But this is not an iconoclastic rant. It is a scholarly discussion of the science behind the Anthropocene concept, and its implications for history, for the study of society, and for our ideas about the world in the broadest sense.
A central theme is the reflection of the terrifying accumulation of damage to the natural world by human activity over the past two centuries in the history of ideas. The dominant trends, to divide natural history from human history and to push the natural world out of economics, have been resisted.
The fact of the Anthropocene, Bonneuil and Fressoz argue, requires a new synthesis of forms of knowledge. They avoid offering any simplistic, pat “solution” to the disastrous rift between human society and the natural world. Instead, they point to new ways of looking at it that, collectively, may help us to change it.
This review summarises the authors’ explanation of the Anthropocene concept; considers their points Read the rest of this entry »
The ways that capitalism uses technology as a means of control was discussed on Thursday evening in London, at a meeting organised by the Breaking the Frame collective.
The meeting was called “Interrogating Digital Capitalism”. Ursula Huws, who researches technology and labour at the University of Hertfordshire, started her talk by arguing that terms such as “digital capitalism” and “biocapitalism” are unhelpful. “I prefer to talk about capitalism”, she said.
Capitalism uses technology at each stage of its restructuring, after recurrent crises, Huws argued. She pointed to three main ways that it uses technology for social control.
■ Technology is used to “simplify and standardise work processes” and sometimes – but not always – to substitute for labour.
■ Technologies are used to control work processes, and for surveillance.
■ Technologies are used to “create new commodities, bringing new areas of human activity into alienated, commodified relationships”. This included Read the rest of this entry »
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
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 »