Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Sermon for Capitalmas Eve

leave a comment »

On this Christmas Eve, Americans are having trouble paying off their credit cards, with 30-day-late accounts rising 26% to $17.3 billion and defaults rising 18% to nearly a billion. There’s a reason for all this, and you can find it in Bill Moyer’s PBS interview with Benjamin Barber (via MeFi), a Galbraithian analysis of capitalism’s production not of products but of needs themselves:

As a society becomes increasingly affluent, wants are increasingly created by the process by which they are satisfied…. Wants thus come to depend on output. In technical terms, it can no longer be assumed that welfare is greater at an all-round higher level of production than at a lower one. It may be the same. The higher level of production has, merely, a higher level of want creation necessitating a higher level of want satisfaction. 

The orgy of Christmas shopping that continues unabated today—to be followed by deep-discount post-Christmas sales on Wednesday, and on and on—is only the clearest proof that this is what capitalism has become in the post-industrial West and, increasingly, elsewhere as well. Barber thinks the productive energies of capitalism might somehow be harnassed, through willpower and ethical living, for better ends, but I’m much more skeptical that capitalism can ever really move in a direction other than the one it has. What we need is a new logic, a new organizing principle. Call it sustainability or call it permaculture, call it environmental Marxism or environmental capitalism if you want, it’s all the same to me—what’s important is that the world figure out some way to stop doing the things capitalism demands it must. We have to stop consuming everything, resources, the future, ourselves.

BILL MOYERS: When politics permeates everything we call it totalitarianism. When religion permeates everything we call it theocracy. 

BENJAMIN BARBER: Right.

BILL MOYERS: But when commerce pervades everything, we call it liberty.

Merry Christmas.

(cross-posted to culturemonkey, which returns Jan. 2 with an all-new blogger and an all-new organizing principle of its own)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: