Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Natural capital

There are few phrases that trigger more irritation in me than 'natural capital'. From a Marxist point of view, 'social capital' is simply absurd; all capital is materially made from social work (work for money) and nature. On the one hand, we are part of nature, so you might reduce all capital to nature. On the other hand, capital is wholly social so we get back to relationships, meaning and power.

The point is 'natural capital' is shorthand for a strategy of capitalisation of more and more of our planet. The most disappointing aspect of the rise of the natural capital concept is that many environmentalists have supported its growth, say, in the form of carbon trading and carbon credits. The Corner House, however, is one the research centres that continues to reveal the dangers of this trend — well worth a browse and read.

The Corner House crew also provide useful analyses of the global financial crisis, its 'management' and consequences. And in the Power Point, 'What news on the Rialto with notes', Nicholas Hildyard shows the fallacy of treating the difficulties in the financial sphere as simply technical in the all-too-common 'finance-as-car-' perspective.

The analysis ends like this: 
I like to contrast the 'finance-as-car' approach to that of the hero of Richmal Compton’s Just William tales. For those who do not know the books, William is a 1930s school boy growing up in a suburban English village. His sole object in life is to enjoy as much time with his gang as possible, without the interference of grown ups.
William is daily preoccupied with resisting his parent’s well meaning, but deeply intrusive, plans for him. He does not organise his resistance around tactics but around strategic goals.
He knows what he wants. And he does not compromise his overarching aim to achieve short term gains. His actions always serve his longer-term strategy. If he plucks low hanging fruit, it is from the right tree.
He knows adults have different and conflicting interest to his. They are there to be circumvented. He never confuses sympathy from adults for his cause with a convergence of goals.
He knows that simply confronting adults is always likely to end in defeat. So he organises to undermine their power, to erode and discredit it. And then to act.
William knows his own powers and their limitations. And he acts to expand those powers by looking for small openings, which he can exploit to his own ends. He is forever on the lookout for the vulnerabilities of the adult world.
Were William to be confronted by the new Rialto that is financialised capitalism, I suspect his first instincts would be to seek allies that shared the same political outlook and analysis, not just discontented fellow travellers; to probe for vulnerabilities; and to search out sites of resistance where campaigns can best be used to promote longer term strategic ends rather than achieve short term but easily reversed gains.

Go William!

BTW, 'Richmal Compton' was a woman ...

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