Climate Anarchists vs Green Capitalists


        [Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]


Ideologies and scenarios of the ecological question in the Great Recession


This paper wants to look at scenarios emerging out of the present economic and ecological crisis for capitalist and anticapitalist forces alike. The first premise is that the 21st century’s ecological question is trumping the 20th century’s social question as major source of conflict. Green is the new red, and class struggle realigns accordingly. The second premise is that Obama’s ecokeynesianism is to be taken seriously as the new template for liberal capitalism after the failure of neoliberal deregulation.



Discourses on the ecological question


Following Dryzek, environmental discourse can be classified along the prosaic/imaginative and reformist/radical axes. The resulting 2X2 matrix allows classification of the ideas and ideologies animating the different social actors on the climate issue today in the world. The emergence of global warming as the single overarching problem confronting humankind, and the prevalent role of energy extraction and consumption, capitalist manufacturing and mass consumerism in all of this has vindicated the unheeded warnings made by the green movement over the last 30 years. Today, the ecological question stands as the equivalent of the social and colonial questions in the past century. If everybody is going green all too fast, from Schwarzenegger to the Trotskyists, from Wal-Mart to BP, it becomes all the more important understanding the field of actors and forces at play, so that we can sketch the likely macropolitical scenarios emerging from today’s twin economic and environmental crises. Capitalism, in its historical corporate and financial incarnations, is the cause of the ecological crisis and of the job crisis. I believe that a socially regulated (as opposed to government-regulated) non-corporate market economy next to a blossoming p2p horizontal economy of social production can deliver what we need (uprooting of the fossil economy) and what we want (augmented freedom and transnational solidarity), more than either the violent overthrow of state and market or the vastly more likely "common ruin of the contending classes" (Marx’s Manifesto), i.e. ecological catastrophe.



Current Types of Environmental Discourse









Technocratic Pragmatism


Malthusian Survivalism




Environmental Sustainability


Green Radicalism


Source: Dryzek (2005).


Green radicalism is the ideological discourse that mobilizes climate anarchists in actions of civil disobedience, unrest and ecotage for environmental justice. It is in itself a fairly wide spectrum going from the NGO professionalism of Greenpeace to the militancy of ELF and ALF, from Monbiot to Zerzan. In the middle are the growing climate action movements which will provide the main thrust for the protests at the upcoming Climate Summit in Copenhagen. All these movements share in varying degrees the belief that existing forms of politics and business are the root causes of the climate crisis. Changing individual behaviors, like Malthusians and UN sustainability types advocate, is not enough, there needs to be a political drive to change the social infrastructure. Until the issue of global warming finally made it to the top of the media news agenda in 2006-2007 (it had also dominated the news in the 1987-1992 period, only to fade back again into oblivion during the Roaring Nineties), environmental discourse had been monopolized by either environmental sustainability (also called "natural capitalism") or the more pragmatic imperatives of increased environmental efficiency and responsibility that firms have had to face since the rise of the green movement. The guys belonging to the sustainability approach want to make capitalism greener by changing its sectoral composition, the technocrats just want to make the existing energy

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