More Secondary Leadership

green_lib This “degrowth” special pleading is really getting to be a massive wipe-out. Green liberals who’ve spent their entire lives avoiding dangerous ideas are now preaching to all of us to give up our insistence on perpetual economic growth. The gentleman at the left is but the latest purveyor of the half-baked, half-informed trope.

The word “capitalism” is, as always, very conspicuously, if not studiously, absent from this man’s supposedly “deep green” writing about “degrowth.”

Meanwhile, the blame for never-named capitalist behavior is nevertheless held to belong to all of us together:

But degrowth is not just a rallying cry or a trivial idea. Degrowth is an important, natural concept that our society needs to understand, whether we call it Degrowth, Limits to Growth, Costs of Complexity, Overshoot, Carrying Capacity, Metabolic Costs, Diminishing Returns on Innovation, Entropic Limits, “The Meek Shall inherit the Earth,” or “Richer lives, simpler means” as Arne Naess said.

The problem for our society is not that these ideas are too complex or wrong, but that they are annoying and inconvenient for the wealthy and powerful. Everyone wants more. Millionaires want to be a billionaires. The more that individuals grab and horde, the less there is for everyone.

See? Capitalists are merely us writ large, and we are they, writ small. We are all equally covetous. The rule of billionaires is one and the same thing as Joe or Jane Sixpack making toast in the morning and going to work. See? See? Shame on us all!

And here is what passes for the relevant underlying sociology/anthropology among these degrowth preachers:

Naturally, people resist the idea of limits on their consumption. The instincts to grow were forged in natural evolution, but those instincts don’t make limits disappear.

This whopper, this sophomoric howler of a claim that capitalist greed goes all the way back to hunter-gatherer times regardless of institutional and historical context, comes not just anywhere, but in an article about the politics of contemporary, 21st century economic growth and “consumption,” in an essay that never once mentions capitalism or marketing or advertising or institutional power of any kind!

As for solutions, other than collective shame, we get this, from a would-be leader who cautions his audience against “wishful thinking”:

If our social, political, and economic planners actually understood ecosystems, we might avoid a lot of problems we face.

ROFLMFAO! Dude, what planet are you living on? Not only are “our” planners not “ours,” they don’t give a flying fuck about ecosystems. Their system doesn’t permit it. Christ, look out the window, man! Read a newspaper. Pull your head out.

I have to say, the whole thing, the blind, craven special pleading toward power and the baseless insults and burdens cast upon the little people, brings to mind Theodor Adorno’s analysis of Nazi ideology, and its reliance on “a regressive repersonalization of impersonal, detached social powers.”

Often peddled by people aspiring to become “great little men” or “secondary leaders,” the hallmark of such “repersonalization” was a combination of upward sycophancy/sociological blindness and downward elitism/arbitrary, personalized blame:

Hitler’s famous formula, “Verantwortung nach oben, Autorität nach unten,” (“responsibility to overs, authority to unders”) nicely rationalizes this character’s ambivalence. The tendency to tread on those below, which manifests itself so disastrously in the persecution of weak and helpless minorities, is as outspoken as the hatred against those outside. In practice, both tendencies quite frequently fall together.

German folklore has a drastic symbol for this trait. It speaks of Radfahrernaturen, bicyclist’s characters. “Above they bow, they kick below.”

Sound familiar? There may not be as much turf between facsism and modern liberalism as we tend to think.

5 Replies to “More Secondary Leadership”

  1. I wonder what these liberals will do after the revolution. But I do know that they’d better get the fuck out of the way, because they’re getting to be such a drag on humanity that I doubt that the upsurge, when it finally comes, will have much time for their whiny, cretinous hides. Liberals seem to me to be even more blinkered than conservatives. At least the latter know that they’re for a system built by arseholes for arseholes, and proud of it. Liberals try to make class society more palatable in the name of some nebulous ”fairness” and ”justice”, too timid to ever utter the obvious truth that they’re defending social arrangements that are bursting at the seams with filth and corruption.

    Fuck social democrats, too.

  2. Growth in species presence and impact is an extremely difficult matter, in large measure because certain ?favored? human beings have habituated the consequences. Billions of others have paid the price for the material attainments of the favored ones.

    I think that some who make the no-growth argument avoid speaking of capitalism as the central issue because even if capitalism as a method of material and wealth distribution were to be replaced by some system devoted to equity, justice and biophysical reality, we would still be faced with human reproductive momentum and the incredible biological success of our adaptations, i.e., growth producing qualities.

    One of my concerns is the religious nature of growth economics in the popular mind ? it is essential that the idea that economic growth can end and reverse become part of our understanding. Otherwise there will be no chance of designing new systems of economic exchange and distribution to facilitate a reduction of population and impact ? only catastrophic collapse would be left.

    Capitalism is a pathology of economic behavior and is exacerbated by psychopaths and sociopaths, a small percentage of all human populations, but with an inordinate impact in the present. But to my mind it is the skin of the orange. The conditions of human nature mixed with our manipulation of environmental realities have generated capitalism. Unless our understanding begins to extend to the power and nature of our adaptations, replacing capitalism will be futile.

  3. I agree with you, JK, that ending capitalism is necessary but not sufficient. Industrialism in general certainly needs a major reconsideration.

    But I also see zero chance of ending growth without talking directly about capitalism. Not only are capitalist priorities the main engine of growth, but any serious politics of shrinkage would quickly encounter both extreme ire from capitalist interests and an urgent internal need to radically redistribute resources to render the shrinkage process equitable and decent.

    I can only think of one reason for not naming and noting the behaviors of one’s main and most immediate and utterly intransigent enemy. C. Wright Mills called it “liberal practicality.” Evasion is another word for it.

    Personally, I find the word “degrowth” itself to be a major sign of the same disease. Among other problems, people are never going to come into the street to fight for made-up techno-jargon.

    We need to get capitalism under control or eliminate it altogether. We need to figure out how to live in peace and maximum comfort with a much smaller “economy.” We need to tell our potential allies the plain truth about what we’re up against.

  4. Offering people a more physically demanding life with fewer material enticements is a hard sell. People need to see the present economic contraction as the beginning part of a process, not just as the rich stealing from us – we need to see it that way also. If we only see our lowering economic standards of living as the consequence of wealth concentration, the reality that there is an overall movement to be adjusted to is lost.

    I can see a French Revolution moment being necessary, but it would be extremely disheartening if the masses could only see a restarting of the economic growth engine as the goal.

  5. Again, I totally concur, JK, that old-style anti-capitalism is no longer the way to go. So, I’m not at all trying to advocate thoughtless repetition of past promises and implications.

    But I also think it’s vital to be clear that capitalists are the main ones who insist upon striving for perpetual growth, as well as on perpetuating appalling waste at any given level of extractive activity.

    I’ve always liked your notion of growing up and facing reality and creating new avenues to meaning as about the best way to attempt to spark this transition.

    Can we agree that anti-capitalism and anti-growth are both necessary but not individually sufficient? That they must be conjoined twins, and failing to join them is failing to advocate the cause of realism and decent survival?

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